Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ryan Raburn or Don Kelly?

The Tigers are going to have to make a decision pretty soon when Andy Dirks comes off the DL.  They are going to have to make room on the 25-man roster and it might come down to either keeping Ryan Raburn or Don Kelly.  There is a 3rd option in sending down Quintin Berry, but he has become a fan favorite.  The Tigers released an official Berry jersey for fans to buy and it seems like he gotten enough clutch hits to earn a spot on the roster for at least the rest of the season. 

Neither Raburn nor Kelly have had much offensive production this year.  Raburn is hitting .172/.227/.255 with only 1 HR and12 RBI.  He was already sent to the minors once this year, right before his “veteran” clause kicked in that would allow him to refuse the assignment.  Since returning to the Tigers, Raburn has hit .217/.260/.333, which is better but a far cry from the 2nd half numbers we are used to seeing from him the last couple of years.  His sub-.500 OPS is even lower than his career .641 1st half OPS, suggesting that his 2nd half resurgence isn’t even going to happen this year.  And now that he can refuse an assignment to the minors, he isn't the obvious choice anymore.

Then there’s Don Kelly.  Kelly has never been on offensive juggernaut, hitting only .244/.282/.378 over the last 2 years.  However, this year he’s hit a pathetic .178/.272/.248, which is far below expectations. 

Of course, offensive has always been secondary to Kelly as his true talents have always been flexibility and defense.  He has mainly played in the OF this year, but has also filled in the infield.  His DRS and UZR have shown him to be an average to an above average defensive player.  But his defense might not help him this time, as he has regressed as he’s gotten older and his dWAR is only at -0.1 this year. 

Raburn also has flexibility, playing 2B and OF this year.  He was forced out of the 2B position when the Tigers acquired Omar Infante, but Leyland expressed that he still wanted to play Raburn in LF when there’s a left-hander on the mound.  Quintin Berry has struggled against lefties this year, only hitting .224/.240/.367 against them, so Leyland may want to continue benching him when a left-hander starts.

As far as Raburn’s defense is concerned, he’s been bad at 2B, with a -3 DRS and -2.2 UZR this year (-18 DRS and -16.6 UZR career).  Although, he has been better in the OF (even though people only seem to remember the HR he helped assist).  With Ramon Santiago now back to a fulltime back-up infielder, Raburn might now only be seen as an outfielder.  That helps Kelly’s case as he can do both OF and INF, but Raburn is a right-handed bat.  Kelly, Berry and Dirks are all left-handed hitters.  Leyland might want to keep Raburn around just so he can go to a right-hander when a southpaw is on the mound.

If it were my choice – flip a coin.  Neither one is going to have that much of an impact.  Both have been below replacement level, Raburn at a -1.3 fWAR, -1.8 rWAR and Kelly at -0.5 fWAR, -0.5 rWAR.  Neither one is going to be the first choice off the bench.  Santiago will handle the back-up infield positions and Berry will handle the back-up outfield positions (assuming Dirks is handed the LF position). 

Both Kelly and Raburn are Leyland guys, so my guess on what the Tigers will do is to delay this inevitable decision and send pitcher Darin Downs back to the minors.  Dombrowski rarely goes with less than 12 pitchers, but with the acquisition of Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers are deep in starting rotation.  When Drew Smyly gets healthy and comes back, then the Raburn/Kelly decision will be made.  Maybe by then, something else will happen (like another injury or trade) that will delay the decision even further.  After all, this is such a tough decision as both Kelly and Raburn are so close to equal value.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trade Reaction: Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante

The Marlins and Tigers also swap competitive balance lottery draft picks.  So now the Tigers get the 6th pick after the first round and the Marlins will get the 6th pick after the second round. 

The Tigers seem to have addressed both needs according to Dave Dombrowski in one swoop, a starting pitcher and a second basemen.  They were able to keep Nick Castellanos, but top prospect Jacob Turner had to be dealt.

The new Tigers:

Anibal Sanchez – 121 IP | 3.94 ERA | 1.26 WHIP | 8.18 K/9 | 2.45 BB/9 | 3.40 FIP | 3.51 xFIP

Sanchez slides into the rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick PorcelloDrew Smyly is likely the odd man out for now and his injury might be more serious than the Tigers had us beleive.  They were also going to limit his innings, so a move to the bullpen is likely if and when he gets healthy.  It will be interesting to see who the odd man out is when the playoffs come around, as teams only need a 4-man rotation (most likely it’ll be between Scherzer and Porcello).  If the Tigers feel that Smyly has earned a spot in the rotation next year, Scherzer or Porcello could be dealt in the off-season.  But first Anibal Sanchez has to be resigned as he is in his final year of his contract.  Compensation draft picks do not get traded with the player as in the new CBA, so the Tigers will get nothing if Sanchez leaves via Free Agency.  Given how much the Tigers gave up for this deal, I have to think that they are going to try to resign Sanchez. 

The Tigers already had the best starting rotation FIP (3.76), xFIP (3.63), SIERA (3.66) and the second best tERA (4.39) in the American League.  So an argument can be made that they were already the best rotation in the AL before adding Sanchez.  However, if Smyly has to be out for a long period of time, the Tigers had to add someone.  Sanchez just isn’t anyone, though.  Over the last 3 years, he has an ERA of 3.69, a strikeout rate of 8.24 K/9, a walk rate of 2.93 BB/9 an FIP of 3.35 and an xFIP of 3.61.  He easily becomes the Tigers 2nd or 3rd best starter and gives the Tigers much needed depth in their rotation.  Dombrowski bypassed an innings eater and went straight for a middle of the rotation starter.

Omar Infante - .287/.312/.442, .330 wOBA, 104 wRC+

Some say second base was the Tigers biggest need.  Infante was rumored as one of the Tigers targets along with Marco Scutaro and Darwin Barney.  Infante already played for the Tigers from 2002 to 2007 where he hit .253/.289/.386.  His past history with the Tigers and Dombrowski’s relationship with the Marlins probably had him #1 on the Tigers list. 

Infante becomes an immediate upgrade for the Tigers as he takes over one, if not the weakest positions.  Tigers 2B were hitting a combined .193/.265/.273, .243 wOBA, 46 wRC+.  Not only were they horrible on offense, but defensively they were near the bottom with a -25 DRS and a -23.5 UZR.  Not only does Infate bring a league average bat with him, but positive fielding (5 DRA and 5.5 UZR at 2B).  Infante is signed through next year at $4 million, so he’ll likely remain the starting 2B until 2014.

The Now Former Tigers:

Jacob Turner – 62 2/3 IP | 3.16 ERA | 1.23 WHIP | 5.74 K/9 | 3.45 BB/9 | 3.58 FIP (AAA)
         - 12 1/3 IP | 8.03 ERA | 1.95 WHIP | 5.11 K/9 | 5.11 BB/9 | 7.85 FIP (MLB)

Rob Brantly – 195 PA | .311/.359/.461 | .362 wOBA | 122 wRC+ (AA)
         - 139 PA | .254/.295/.285 | .269 wOBA | 60 wRC+ (AAA)

Brian Flynn – 102 IP | 3.44 ERA | 1.40 WHIP | 7.41 K/9 | 2.82 BB/9 | 3.22 FIP (A+)

Despite some ML struggles for Turner, he’s still expected to be a #2 or #3 starter.  Brantly’s ceiling is probably an average ML starting catcher and Flynn could be a Duane Below-like player at the ML level.  A few months ago I ranked Turner #1 (althoughby now he’s probably #2 as Castellanos has passed him), Brantly as #6 and Flynnas #14 on the Tigers top prospect list.  The Tigers didn’t get a steal in this trade as all three of these players could be contributors in the majors.  However, the Tigers are in a “win now” mode and this is the price that has to be paid. 

My initial reaction to this trade was a little overpayment on the Tigers side.  Now that I have had time to process it, I give it a win for the Tigers now with a wait and see approach.  Wait and see how far the Tigers make it to the playoffs, wait and see if the Tigers resign Anibal Sanchez and wait and see if the prospects the Tigers gave up reach their full potential.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Prospects Team

Over on the Forums, I was involved in a draft of prospects.  The concept was simple, build a team of prospects using players that hadn’t reached rookie status yet at the start of the draft.  As the draft progressed, people started to lose interest and/or got busy, so someone else stepped up and started drafting for them.  This was a little disappointing to me because I wanted to see each of the 10 participants to build their own team themselves, but I understand how real life can get in the way.  Then people started picking amateurs that were too young to have been drafted by MLB teams.  Now I already have limited knowledge of prospects as it is, so I just stuck with players with pro experience.  Currently, there’s talk about making this a “keeper” and making it an annual thing.  The details are a little fuzzy at the moment, but that should be fun nonetheless.

This is the team that I ended up with:

(4) C YasmaniGrandal (SD, MLB – 35 PA, .286/.286/.657, .396 wOBA, 159 wRC+
(12) 1B Miles Head (OAK, A+, AA) – 365 PA, .361/.416/.657, .458 wOBA, 178 wRC+
(9) 2B Cory Spangenberg (SD, A+) – 295 PA, .288/.330/.384, .325 wOBA, 91 wRC+
(7) 3B Jedd Gyorko (SD, AA, AAA) – 382 PA, .310/.372/.542, .393 wOBA, 137 wRC+
(1) SS Jurickson Profar (TEX, AA) – 378 PA, .288/.367/.475, .374 wOBA, 134 wRC+
(5) OF Christian Yelich (MIA, R, A+) – 257 PA, 310/.391/.544, .430 wOBA, 169 wRC+
(8) OF Josh Bell – (PIT, A) – 66 PA, .274/.288/.403, .311 wOBA, 84 wRC+
(13) OF Jackie Bradley (BOS, A+, AA) – 401 PA, .356/.469/.508, .440 wOBA, 174 wRC+
(17) UTL Brandon Jacobs (BOS, A+) – 301 PA, .287/.346/.436, .351 wOBA, 115 wRC+
(18) UTL Alen Hanson (PIT, A) – 389 PA, .329/.391/.587, .422 wOBA, 154 wRC+

(2) P ArchieBradley (ARI, A) – 87 2/3 IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.73 K/9, 5.95 BB/9, 3.90 FIP
(3) P Zack Wheeler (NYM, AA) – 92 2/3 IP, 2.62 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.55 K/9, 3.40 BB/9, 2.77 FIP
(6) P Jacob Turner (DET, A+, AAA) – 84 1/3 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.08 K/9, 3.31 BB/9, 3.52 FIP
(10) P Joe Ross (SD, R, A) – 28 IP, 6.43 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 4.18 BB/9, 3.52 FIP
(11) P AJ Cole (OAK, A, A+) – 87 2/3 IP, 4.72 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 9.03 K/9, 1.95 BB/9, 3.61 FIP
(14) P Tony Cingrani (CIN, A+, AA) – 98 2/3 IP, 1.28 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 11.04 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 2.26 FIP
(15) P Clayton Blackburn (SF, A) – 83 1/3 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.26 K/9, 1.40 BB/9, 1.92 FIP
(16) P Luis Heredia (PIT, A-) – 19 IP, 0.95 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.63 K/9, 1.42 BB/9, 2.20 FIP
(19) P Kyle Crick (SF, A) – 64 1/3 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 10.91 K/9, 6.02 BB/9, 3.40 FIP
(20) P Adam Conley (MIA, A, A+) – 89 1/3 IP, 2.72 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.67 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 2.64 FIP

List of all teams are here.

I had the #1 overall pick.  With the big three of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Matt Moore already graduated to MLB, Jurickson Profar became the obvious choice.  My strategy from then on relied on prospect lists (this got easier as mid-season lists became available during the draft) and stats taken from FanGraphs.  While it’s better to look at things on video, I either don’t have access to them or don’t have the time to look up a lot of them, so the limited, vague scouting reports is all I had to go on.
The main reason why I wanted to participate in this draft was to learn more about prospects and I think mission, accomplished.  After the draft was over, one of the smarter prospect people rated my team an “A” with the 2nd best team out of the 10.  This was mainly due to the resident substitute drafter not doing particularly well with his picks and I’m sure the outcome would’ve been different if everyone got to pick their own players.
Only two Tigers prospects were taken out of the 200 overall players.  Nick Castellanos was taken #28 overall and I took Jacob Turner #60 overall.  This shows how much Castellanos has risen and how much Turner has fallen, so much so that Castellanos may have taken over as the Tigers #1 prospect.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Darwin Barney Would Improve the Tigers

There have been various speculations on what positions the Tigers could improve on and who to trade, including trading top prospects Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner for a superstar.  But the one player that has me the most intrigued is Cubs' second baseman Darwin Barney. 

First, the offense.  The Tigers have the worst offensive production out of the 2B position of any team in MLB, hitting a combined .193/.259/.273 with a .239 wOBA and 43 wRC+.  Darwin Barney would be an immediate upgrade, currently hitting .259/.304/.362 with a .295 wOBA and 79 wRC+.  But then again, those aren’t spectacular numbers.  In fact, those are below average numbers.  So why do I like Barney so much?

The defense.  Darwin Barney currently leads all second basemen in DRS at 23, while his UZR is a less than impressive 3.2 but still 9th in all of baseball.  Whichever one you believe is more accurate, it’s better than what the Tigers are currently running out there and most likely better than any of the other 2B on the trading block.  This is very important to a team like the Tigers who have been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball.  This would also directly improve the pitching.

The Tigers’starting rotation currently ranks 8th in the AL in ERA at 4.21.  However, they rank #1 in FIP, 3.76, #1 in xFIP, 3.66, #2 in SIERA, 3.69 and #3 in tERA, 4.42.  The Tigers have a top 3 rotation in the AL according to these stats, but their defense is holding them back.  If they can change the negative fielding at 2B with the positive fielding of Darwin Barney, the pitching numbers will be closer to these defense independent pitching stats.  It would be a huge boost to the Tigers.

Now, Darwin Barney is a below average hitter, but an above average defender, making him about an average player overall.  Those players don’t fetch much in return, which would be good for the Tigers as they will be able to keep their top prospects, but bad for the Cubs as they would want to improve for the future.  Therefore, they will most likely want to package Barney with a better player to get a better return of prospects, most likely with Matt Garza. 

Matt Garza’s ERA is lower than Max Scherzer’s, Doug Fister’s, Rick Porcello’s and Drew Smyly’s.  However, he has the highest FIP of all those players, the 2nd highest tERA after Fister and the 2nd highest SIERA after Porcello.  Putting Garza up with the Tigers' defense doesn’t show a noticeable upgrade to whoever he would be replacing.  There is a possibility that Fister could see more time on the DL and Smyly’s innings could be limited, so upgrading with another starter wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Tigers to do.  However, they don’t have much in trade bait and the possibility of overpaying on someone that may not even be an upgrade is undesirable. 

However, if they can get Darwin Barney for a mid-level prospect, they should jump at the opportunity.