Archive Mode

As it has been for a while now, Friar Forecast is in archive mode. We’ve switched from a self-hosted platform to wordpress.com to avoid having to continuously pay for hosting, however we’ve kept the domain name so all of the links should still work. This should allow the archives for the blog to remain online for all of eternity.

Thanks for the years of support. Go Padres!

Well Represented

As the top 100 lists are making their rounds, I can’t help but feel proud to be a Padres fan at this time. The Padres find themselves well represented. Padres prospects appearing on reputable top 100 lists include Yonder Alonso, Cory Spangenberg, Jed Gyorko, Yasmani Grandal, Austin Hedges, Keyvious Sampson, Robbie Erlin, Joseph Wieland, Casey Kelly, Rymer Liriano, Jaff Decker, and James Darnell. That makes 12 players appearing on top 100 lists.

The Padres have no shortage of highly regarded prospects. Still, there are several other Padres prospects that hope to make an appearance on next year’s top 100 lists’. Here are several that could make the lists next year:

Jace Peterson –Highest upside of any SS in the Padres system. Jace is fairly new to baseball but has the athleticism to shoot up the prospect boards if he stays focused and has the breakout year I expect.

Kevin Quackenbush – Relievers don’t often make it onto top prospect lists, but if Josh Spence could make a cameo last year, surely Quackenbush has a shot. I could see Quackenbush cracking top 100 lists if he replicates his 2011 performance in the upper minors.

Donovan Tate – Has enough talent to be an elite level prospect. The only thing holding Tate back from being considered a top 100 prospect are injury and character concerns. The word “only” seems a tad understated, but he has shown flashes. If Tate manages to stay healthy an entire season he could be next year’s Rymer Liriano.

Edinson Rincon – We all know Rincon has the offensive potential. If Rincon can find a position that he plays with adequate defense, he could easily be a top 100 prospect. At this point, though, he is essentially a younger Jesus Guzman.

Reymond Fuentes – I am not one of those that is disappointed in Fuentes’ progression. That said, he has not yet taken that next big step towards becoming the player the Red Sox and now Padres have envisioned. If Fuentes can improve his on base skills and show more power than Luis Durango, he could start getting talked about as a solid prospect.

Jonathan Galvez – Galvez is my personal favorite, along with Peterson, to have a huge 2012. With Spangenburg behind him and Belnome in front of him (on the minor league depth chart), Galvez will have plenty of motivation to stay focused and have a brilliant 2012. I could see Galvez hitting .300 with 15 HRs and 40 SBs at San Antonio next year. At 21, that kind of production from a 2B prospect could land him on several top 100 lists.

I am very excited for the upcoming baseball year on both the major league level and with the Padres minor league affiliates. Who will be the next group of Padre prospects to step up?

Previewing the 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm: Pitching Staff

Now that the thrill of being the 2011 Cal League champs has settled, coaching moves have been made, and the cold winter months begin to fade into the unbearably hot summer weather, it is time to start talking about the 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm.  The 2011 version of the Storm was one expected to be led by hard throwing right hander Matt Lollis.  Unfortunately, after 19 mostly unsuccessful starts he was moved to the pen and ended with an ERA north of five.  In fact of the seven starters who had multiple starts for the Storm, five of them ended with an ERA of over five.

The 2012 version should see considerable improvements such as Madfriars #1 prospect Keyvius Sampson.  In addition, the 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm will benefit from increased depth at the upper levels, as a few pitchers that might normally be pushed to Double-A will be given another season in High-A to improve upon mechanics and hopefully put up better numbers.  So without further ado here goes the 2012 projected Storm rotation:

1)      Keyvius Sampson (12-3 2.90 ERA in Fort Wayne)
As great as it is for the Padres to say this… Sampson’s 12-3 record with a 2.90 ERA doesn’t show just how dominating he was for the TinCaps in 2011.  In fear of throwing too many innings, Sampson was limited to five innings in most of his second half starts.  With the 2010 injury in the past and 118 innings already under his belt, Sampson will be allowed to — finally — go deeper into games.  Sampson has been knocked on a few prospect sheets because scouts view his mechanics as “ugly,” and with an injury history, many wonder if he will be able to remain healthy enough to make it to the show and remain a starter.  Despite the criticism, Sampson was healthy all of 2011, and looks to show a few of the “experts” just how dominating he can be.  IF Sampson can stay healthy look for him to put up BIG numbers.

2)      Matt Jackson (5-1, 1.95 ERA in Fort Wayne)
Jackson was injured for a large part of the second half for the TinCaps, but that didn’t stop him from being named a MWL All Star.  Jackson doesn’t have anything ++ like Sampson, but he has four quality pitches each with good movement and good control.  The benefit for Jackson is that he is comfortable throwing any pitch at anytime in the count.  The biggest question for Jackson will be can he stay healthy, and if he does how many innings will the Elsinore staff let him throw (only threw 64.2 in 2011).

3)      Matt Branham (4-3, 4.98 ERA in Fort Wayne)
In 2010 Branham was in a Eugene rotation with top prospects Sampson, Portillo, and former high prospect Dexter Carter.  After the season was said and done, Branham was the pitcher of the year for Eugene going 6-3, 2.97 ERA.  Branham struggled a bit out of the gate in Fort Wayne and then got hurt.  He came back in August to Eugene where he got in 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.  Branham might have been out of luck, but the trade of Zach Cates opened up a spot for the big 6’5” right hander.  He might still start the season in the pen or in Elsinore, but if healthy I think he has the potential and skill to be a mid-rotation pitcher.

4)      Mark Hardy (11-10 2.78 ERA in Fort Wayne)
The Canadian lefty was the swing guy for the TinCaps last year.  If a start was needed he was the guy, if help in the pen was needed he could go one inning or five.  Hardy ended up throwing the most innings, and throwing the only complete game of the year  Like Jackson, Hardy doesn’t have any ++ pitches, but has multiple solid pitches and great control.  A control lefty with a solid repertoire can go along way in the minors.

5)      Andrew Werner (MWL/CL 7-8, 3.23 ERA combined)
This fifth spot could go to any number of players.  Werner probably isn’t the most likely to be here, but my guess is that he will end up here.  Even with Nick Schmidt, Pedro Hernandez, Zach Cates, and Simon Castro all traded, the Padres will still have a couple of pitchers staying in San Antonio, which means there is a good chance at least one of Sullivan, Watt, Lollis, De Paula, Werner, or Fetter will be staying in Elsinore.  Originally I thought it would go to Chris Fetter who has big potential with his frame and fastball, but was injured for most of 2011.  Unfortunately with Fetter already 26 years old, there is a good chance he either gets pushed to San Antonio (probably in the pen) or just released.  SO… staying in LE is Andrew Werner who put up a good season but similar to Watt, is mainly organizational depth more than anything else.

Bullpen

Closer: Kevin Quackenbush (2-1, 0.84 ERA, 18-20 SV, 42 IP, 71 K)
 This was easy.  Quackenbush exploded out of nowhere to seize the closer role in both Eugene and Fort Wayne.   The 23-year-old has  the big game, back-of-the-pen mentality that could get him to San Diego in 2013, possibly even September of this year.  BAA of .172, 71 K/12 BB.  It’s hard not to love him.

8th inning: Adam Dominick (5-6, 3.59 ERA, 10 SV, 72 IP, 13 BB, 83 K)
Dominick had some problems early and eventually lost the closer’s role to Quackenbush.  Dominick has the raw stuff to be solid in the back of the pen, but struggled with allowing runners on base in close games.  Call it a lack of a closer’s mentality, but before Quack came to Fort Wayne it seemed like every save opportunity the collar got tighter and tighter.  After Quack took over as closer, though, Dominick settled down into his eighth inning role.  Dominick allowed runs in only one of his final nine appearance (12 IP, 17 K).

7th inning: Chris Franklin (2-2, 2.97 ERA 7 SV, 15 H in Fort Wayne)
Franklin might not have started the year as the back of the pen guy, but his post ASB numbers of 2-1, 2.33 ERA with a 2:1 GB/FB were solid.  Franklin did have some trouble early on with the home run ball, but didn’t allow a home run the entire second half of the year.  In the hot Cal League air Franklin could get in trouble if he leaves the ball up, but if the second half of the year was any indication of what’s to come he will make the game a six inning affair for the Storm.

Next up: the 2012 Texas League Champs San Antonio Missions, who should see quite a few returning faces and the additions of a few key players all ready to make the Missions go back-to-back.

Ten names to know: 2012 MLB Draft Prospects

Baseball is in the air. Players are beginning to report to spring training. The Padres appear to be nearly set with only a couple 25 man spots up for grabs. Although the 2012 draft is not until June, the Padres surely have scouts getting ready for the high school and college baseball season about to begin. With the seventhoverall pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft, the Padres will be keeping an eye on a handful of players. Here I will introduce you to 10 names that the Padres scouts will likely be following over the next few months. All are potential top half of the first round picks. I have selected with the Padres organizational needs in mind to a large degree.

Not likely to be available:

1) Devin Marrero (SS) – The Padres would be ecstatic to find Marerro at number seven. It is very unlikely that he falls to the Padres, but the Padres would be foolish to not scout him anyway. Marrero is one of the better college shortstops to come out in years. He does not possess Manny Machado upside, IMO. However, he does have a high floor and may move fast. Marrero is a good bet to be an average to slightly above average major league shortstop within two years of drafting. The Padres should be salivating.

2) Lucas Giolito (RHP) – My personal favorite of the 2012 draft. Giolito has arguably the highest upside of any pitcher in the 2012 draft. He routinely hits the mid- to-upper 90’s with the radar gun and has a projectable frame. At 6’6” and 200lbs, he is a potential ace. Giolito could go #1 overall and most likely will not be available when the Padres draft.

3) Mark Appel (RHP) – Many believe Appel will be the first player selected. With this being a shallow college player draft, Appel stands out amongst the rest. Appel is 6’5” 190 lb projectable workhorse. Appel, IMO, does not project to be an ace. Although, some will argue that he has the upside of an ace. I think Appel will be viewed by most scouts as #2 that eats up solid innings. Appel represents the best floor/ceiling combination of any pitcher in the 2012 draft. There are enough teams in need of advanced pitching ahead of the Padres that Appel is highly unlikely to be available to the Padres.

4) Mike Zunino (C) – The Padres may no longer have an organizational need at catcher. However, catching is such a valuable commodity that should Zunino be available at number seven, the Padres would consider drafting him as the best player available. Make no mistake, the Padres would not draft Zunino ahead of Giolito, Marrero, or Appel. Zunino projects to be major league ready fairly quickly. Most of the scouting reports I have read suggest Zunino’s floor is an above average backup catcher with his ceiling as an above average major league starting catcher. He is a solid bet to play regularly at the catching position in the Majors, which makes him valuable.

Players that might be available to the Padres:

5) Kevin Gausman (RHP) – Gausman is a power pitcher for LSU. Gausman has more upside, IMO, than Appel. However, Gausman has a high bust factor as he has not shown the same consistency as Appel. If Gausman pitches exceptionally this spring, he may be picked ahead of the Padres at #7. Gausman has the potential to be a top of the rotation elite starter if he puts everything together. The Padres, lacking in elite prospect talent, should be scouting Gausman heavily this spring.

6) Carlos Correa (SS) – With Marrero likely gone by the #6 overall pick, the Padres could draft Correa. Correa will be a project for whoever drafts him. He is not a sure bet for staying at SS, but has the athleticism that will entice teams to try him there early in his pro career. The Padres should be scouting Correa quite a bit since SS is very weak. Personally, I would pass on Correa should a very good pitching prospect like Gausman be available. Correa, IMO, does not represent a significant upside improvement over Jace Peterson and would be slightly behind Peterson in development.

7) Byron Buxton (OF) – Many believe Buxton to be the best overall high school position talent available in terms of ceiling. I have heard comparisons to Donovan Tate. Buxton, for the Padres, would represent drafting an elite upside talent. Buxton has the potential to be a five-tool outfielder. Given the only elite upside outfielder in the Padres system is Tate, the Padres would likely consider taking Buxton should he be available.

8 ) Max Fried (LHP) – High school lefties with fastballs sitting in the low 90’s and occasionally reaching 95 are sure to get the attention of scouts. At 6’3” and 170 lbs, Fried has the frame to go along with his pitching repertoire. Fried is a personal favorite of mine and would love to see the Padres draft him if he is the best available left at #7.

Likely to be available:

9) Chris Beck (RHP) – Beck is one of the safer college pitching picks. At 6’3” 190lbs, he certainly has the projectable frame. Beck should be available to the Padres should they decide to go with a safe pick with minimal sign-ability risk. Beck projects as a middle of the rotation starter with #2 upside if his secondary pitches continue to improve.

10) Lance McCullers (RHP) — McCullers is in a similar boat as Gausman. Both need a big spring to solidify their status as a top 10 draft pick. McCullers routinely hits the upper 90’s with the radar gun. However, McCullers is even more raw than Giolito and doesn’t have the same frame. At 6’2’ 195 lbs, McCullers still has some frame projectability but coupled with his raw potential makes McCullers a project. McCullers could be a top 5 pick if he shows improvement in command and secondary pitches this spring.

Additional names that the Padres would likely be scouting: Trey Williams, Victor Roache, Walker Weichel, Mike Wacha, Jake Barrett, Nick Williams, and Lucas Sims.

Overall, there should be plenty of players for the Padres to choose from in the 2012 draft. If I were putting together a “big” board for the Padres and the draft were held tomorrow, here is how I would have it:

1) Marrero
2) Giolito
3) Appel
4) Gausman
5) Fried
6) Buxton
7) Zunino

Gausman, Fried, and Buxton are the most likely to be available and all would represent high upside picks for the Padres.

What to expect from Luke Gregerson

We’ve noted many times over the years that relief pitchers are a fickle bunch. We only get 60 or 70 innings to evaluate each season, making the effort of predicting their future performance an at times futile one. Luke Gregerson was dominant in his first two seasons in San Diego, but despite a drop in ERA, he struggled in 2011. The numbers:

Year Inn. ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP
2009 75 3.24 11.2 3.7 .4 2.50
2010 78.3 3.22 10.2 2.1 .9 2.86
2011 55.7 2.75 5.5 3.1 .3 3.40

 

Gregerson struck out nearly 30 percent of batters in his first two seasons. Last year, his strikeout percentage fell to 14.1. That’s an alarming drop.

Using the new PITCHf/x tool created by Brooks Baseball and The Hardball Times, we can take a quick look inside the numbers. Gregerson relies heavily on the slider and below are some of his numbers for that pitch:

Year SL% MPH Call Str. Swings Whiffs/Swings
2009 51 84.1 15.8 55.3 46.7
2010 59 84.7 17.4 53.3 40.1
2011 54 85.5 13.6 52.3 33.5

 

Gregerson is still getting batters to swing at his slider, however, when they do swing they are much less likely to miss, as evidenced by the decline in Whiffs/Swings from 46.7 percent in 2009 to just 33.5 percent last season.

It’s also important to note that while Gregerson’s slider velocity has actually increased, his fastball and sinker velocity have decreased over the past three seasons, perhaps making his slider less deceptive and/or allowing batters to wait that much longer to recognize the slider.

Can Gregerson remain successful striking out only 14 percent of batters? It’s unlikely. While his home run rate was excellent in 2011, as he allowed just two home runs all year, that’s almost certainly going to increase in 2012. Only 3.8 percent of his fly balls traveled over the fence last year and that number tends to regress heavily toward the league average (~11 percent).

A sub-two strikeout-walk-ratio and a more normal HR/FB rate will likely lead to an ERA well into the threes. Out of the bullpen and in Petco Park, there just isn’t a lot of value there.

It’s impossible to tell if Gregerson will regain his swing-and-miss ways, but the over-reliance on the slider is worrisome. He missed a month in 2011 with a strained left oblique, and you have to be concerned that further injuries and/or decline in velocity could continue due to the high slider percentage.

Gregerson is a personal favorite and I’m certainly hoping he can regain his 2009-2010 form. Keep a close eye on his early season strikeout percentage and whiff rates for an indicator as to how his 2012 campaign might unfold.

New PITCHf/x tool

Check out Brooks Baseball for a ridiculously awesome PITCHf/x tool released by Dan Brooks, Harry Pavlidis, and Lucas Apostoleris (among others, I’m sure). Now stop drooling. Here’s the introduction article.

Also, be sure to check out The Hardball Times newly unveiled Dispatch section, where THTers analyze the game using PITCHf/x data.

On the subject, I’m hoping to add more PITCHf/x analysis here at Friar Forecast.

Padres add Micah Owings

The San Diego Padres have signed right-handed pitcher/hitter Micah Owings to a one-year, $1 million deal. Dan Hayes explains the specifics:

Owings — 8-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 games (four starts) for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season — signed a split contract with the Padres, according to a team source, which means he could begin the 2012 season in the minors.

General manager Josh Byrnes said in a team release Owings will vie for either a spot in the starting rotation or in the bullpen. But if Owings starts in the minors — he has two minor-league options left — he will be paid an increased minor-league salary instead of the major-league deal. The deal also doesn’t allow Owings to opt out of his contract if he doesn’t break camp with the Padres.

After a solid rookie season on the mound in 2007, Owings struggled from 2008-2010, posting a 5.59 ERA, 1.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.2 HR/9. Last year, however, in 63 innings primarily out of the Arizona bullpen, he increased the SO/BB ratio to 1.91 and lowered his ERA to 3.57.

Interesting, looking at the pitch data, Owings velocity didn’t increase upon moving to the pen. Actually, it went down, and that appears to be thanks to an increased reliance on the cut-fastball. According to BIS, Owings relied on a cutter 77.3 percent of the time last season, and had previously never thrown the pitch. According to PITCHf/x, however, he only threw the cutter 32.6 percent last season, and had relied on it heavily before (notably in 2009).

Naturally, Petco will help the big right hander.

If he makes the major league roster or comes up later in the season, Owings will probably take on the swing man role — coming in for long relief, getting some emergency starts, and occasionally pitching a high-leverage inning or two — and he’s adequately suited to do just that.

Owings real value, though, is in his versatility. Not just versatility on the mound, but his well-above average hitting skills for a pitcher. In fact, his career batting numbers are actually above-average for a position player. In 217 career plate appearances, he’s hit .286/.313/.507 with nine home runs. In 88 career minor league PAs, Owings hit .325/.353/.475. He isn’t refined with the bat, striking out often and rarely taking a walk, but the power is obviously there.

Most of that damage at the major league level was done way back in ’07 while in the starting rotation. Further, Owings has only received 33 PAs over the last two seasons, working primarily out of the bullpen.  Still, the two-way college player at Georgia Tech and Tulane possesses hitting ability that few pitcher’s can match. The Padres won’t be forced to take him out of the game in the long man/relief role if he comes up in a semi-crucial situation. Further, on days when he’s not expected to hit, Owings could make for a viable pinch hitter.

While signing Owings exclusively as pitching depth is okay, his real value comes in his offensive game and overall versatility.

Organizational value and perspective

I thought I would take a look at the Padres current roster and offer my opinions and thoughts on how the Padres may be viewing/valuing their established players. I am leaving off some of the younger players that still need some more evaluation time and/or are not expected to receive a lot of playing time in 2012 at the major league level. I would like to see some more data and playing time for players like Luebke and Cashner. I have made a couple exceptions, however. Moseley and Guzman are included as I feel the organization likely has a pretty good feel for what they have in these two. I take into consideration surplus value, absolute value, internal pressures, intangibles, and external pressures such as free agent and trade availability.

A team like the Padres has to put an emphasis on surplus value when considering how a roster takes shape and how that roster will evolve in the coming years. I consider the Padres to be a team that needs to have a surplus value ratio of around 4 to 1 on average in order to be a serious contender to make the playoffs.  Other teams, such as the Yankees and Red Sox, have the luxury of being able to put emphasis on absolute value. This means if they need an extra 5 WAR to be playoff competitive, they can pay $20-$25m/year for a player that they feel confident can be a 5 WAR player.

A team like the Padres, on the other hand, need several of their lower priced and cost controlled players to overachieve by more than a 4 to 1 WAR value to cost ratio. The Padres have seen players like Maybin, Venable, Headley, Gregerson, and Richards fit with this mold. At some point, though, these players’ salaries go up and they lose their value to a team like the Padres. These same players, however, may still represent value to teams like the Yankees. This is in a nutshell why the Padres have had to trade several of their high profile and high absolute value players.

There are also internal pressures for a team to consider when evaluating a player’s future on the roster. Those players that are highly regarded in the minors and those players viewed as acceptable trade off in value in order to make other roster accommodations. Surely, the Padres are thinking about Gyorko, Forsythe, and Darnell when considering Headley’s future with the team. I will go into more detail on Headley later.

There is some question as to how much intangibles should factor into placing or keeping a player on the roster. Mark Kotsay is a great example where intangibles should be considered and discussed. Intangibles can be things such as club house morale and attitude, fan appreciation and attraction (Trevor Hoffman comes to mind), and the ability to mentor younger players.

Although the Padres are not considered big spenders in free agency, they must consider the talent available in free agency and via trade when deciding how to shape the roster.

Pitching Staff 

Luke Gregerson

Gregerson is entering his fourth ML season, all with the Padres. Gregerson is scheduled to make $1.55 million in 2012. His value in terms of WAR plummeted in 2011, largely due to his K/9 being cut in half and his innings reduced over 25%. Despite a drop in ERA, it was a down year for Gregerson. I expect the K/9 last year to be an outlier as his previous pro experience from the minors through the big leagues has seen consistency in his K/9. Gregerson has been a consistently solid bullpen piece for the Padres. I would expect .7 to 1.2 WAR out of Gregerson over each of the next couple years. Essentially, he is worth around $3 to $6 million/year.

Clearly, at $1.55m, he represents a value for the Padres. I see no reason why the Padres would be under any pressure to move him this year. However, now that he is entering his arbitration years I could see the Padres listening to offers at the trade deadline in 2012 and perhaps actively shopping him next offseason. Next offseason, he would be due another raise. I am no expert at predicting arbitration salaries but I think it would likely be between $2-$3m for 2013. By 2013, the Padres will have plenty of internal pressure pushing them to consider moving Gregerson. These internal pressures include Brach, Boxburger, Vincent, and Mikolas. All would represent possible adequate replacement or improvement in terms of absolute value at a much lower cost than $2-$3 million. So, expect to see Gregerson gone by 2013 and for the right deal he could be moved this trade deadline season.

Dustin Moseley

As of the writing of this article, Moseley and the Padres have not yet agree to a contract for 2012. When all is said and done, he will likely earn around $2m for 2012 (Update: just signed for $2.0125m). Moseley has never pitched more than 120 innings in a ML season, 2011 being the most to this point. I am going to assume Moseley wins the final starting rotation spot out of spring training and adds to his career high innings pitched total. If he can manage to put up similar results as last year and pitch 150+ innings, with some slight statistical regression, he could be a 1 WAR player in 2012. This assumes that he stays healthy longer than he did last year. If reasonably healthy he could provide $4m-$6m in absolute value, which given his likely 2012 salary represents a decent value return to the Padres. Moseley will likely find himself in a similar position as Gregerson. If in house candidates like Oramas, Erlin, Kelly, Wieland, and Reyes show advancement in 2012, we could see Moseley traded so that better, younger, cheaper talent can have their shot. Pitching depth is always valuable, so like Gregerson, there will be no big hurry to trade him. The Padres really have no reason to pay Moseley likely over $3m in 2013 and continue to hold back in house alternatives.

Clayton Richard

When healthy, Richard is between a 1 and 1.5 WAR pitcher. This places his value at around $6-7m in a given season. Because Richard has essentially been making the league minimum, he had provided a good deal of value for the Padres. At his best he is providing more than a 10 to 1 WAR value ratio. He is exactly the kind of pitcher that fits well in SD for the first four years of his career. Unfortunately, Richard is entering his fourth year and now makes $2.705m for the 2012 season. His value to the Padres is quickly diminishing. Richard should provide solid value again this season for the Padres, but 2013 could see him earning $4-6m. This doesn’t mean Richard will definitely be moving on from the Padres in the short-term. He is becoming a veteran pitcher and still has value. The Padres will have several pitchers to make decisions on after 2012 due to increasing salaries and internal replacement options. Richard is one of them. My guess is that Richard is back again in 2013 and traded mid-season or after the 2013 season. But, given his rising cost, the Padres would be smart to listen to offers before then.

Tim Stauffer

Stauffer has become a fan favorite and arguably the # 1 pitcher on the current Padres staff. I see Stauffer as a solid two WAR pitcher. He is a #3 on a good pitching staff and a #2 on average or weak staff. Stauffer has two years of team control left and is scheduled to make $3.2m this year. He is still providing very good value and will likely return a 3 to 1 WAR value ratio in 2012. He will be in line for a salary of $5-$7 in his final year of arbitration. The Padres could decide to listen to offers for Stauffer after this season. I have to believe the Padres are going to ask for a very good prospect or two for Stauffer. With the glut of young pitchers coming up though, the Padres would be wise to keep Stauffer around to mentor them and help carry this staff. I could see the Padres buying out one year of free agency and coming to a two year deal next off season that would keep Stauffer a Padre through 2014.

Huston Street

Unless the Padres and Street exercise his 2013 mutual option, Street will be a free agent following the 2012 campaign. The Padres are on the hook for about $7m between this years salary, the 500k buyout, and what the Rockies are covering. Street consistently put up between 1 to 1.5 WAR each season, not bad for a relief pitcher. However, $7m is essentially fair market value for Street and offers nothing in terms of surplus value to the Padres. A mid-season trade makes a lot of sense for the Padres and Huston Street. If they don’t trade him, they are looking at $9m next year or losing him to FA. I suppose the Padres could sign him to a two year extension, however, given the multitude of players due arbitration raises in 2013, an extension that would likely be in the neighborhood of 2/$16m seems unlikely. The most likely scenario is the Padres trade him for a decent prospect at the trade deadline. However, should the Padres find themselves in a playoff race as late as July, they could hold on to him should a quality prospect not be offered in trade.

Joe Thatcher

Inconsistent is a word I could use to describe the “Prime Minister.” Thatcher was injured most of 2011. Prior to 2011 he saw his ERA, K rates, and BB rates fluctuate wildly from year to year. Thatcher is valuable as a lefty specialist. If healthy (common theme), Thatcher could return one WAR in 2012. Because of injury, limited innings, and inconsistency I am only expecting .5 WAR. Still, his 700k salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility makes him a solid value in 2012 and likely in 2013 as well. Personally, I like Thatcher and I think if he puts his injury behind him he will be a solid bullpen contributor for a couple more years. Loogy’s as they are often referred to, are a valuable commodity. Should Spence continue to be very effective at the big league level, the Padres could begin taking offers for Thatcher should his value come back up. Still, I see him with the Padres for at least two more seasons since the Padres value bullpen depth and Thatcher should remain affordable.

Edinson Volquez

Could Volquez be the best piece of the Latos trade? Maybe for 2012. Volquez has been something of an enigma thus far in his career. Injury has derailed Volquez after splashing onto the scene in 2008. At age 28 and presumably healthy, he’ll get a chance to start again in the pitchers paradise that we all love and hate… Petco. Volquez has good stuff and his K rates are still strong. The question for Balsley and Black is if they can get his control and psyche back on track. If so, Volquez could potentially have a great bounce back year and could be a comeback player of the year candidate. This makes his value very difficult to determine. Volquez will make $2.2375m for 2012. This means he only needs to be a .5 WAR pitcher for the Padres to receive any value. He posted .5 WAR or more three times. Assuming he is healthy and improves at Petco under Black and Balsey, two WAR is a real possibility. Volquez still has another year of control left after 2012. If Volquez is pitching well and the Padres are in contention, there will be no pressure to move his reasonable salary and pending FA putting pressure on them to move him for fear of losing him. If he is pitching well and the Padres are out of contention, he could draw serious interest and return the Padres a solid prospect at mid-season. If Volquez is an utter failure, the Padres will have spent a little over $2m and he was the fourthpiece in the Latos trade. Great risk reward profile for the Padres. My guess is the Padres move him in next year’s offseason or the 2013 trade deadline. If he can prove he can outpitch Moseley, he should be on next year’s roster. Volquez’s future will largely depend on how the Padres perform as a team in the first half of 2012.

Offense 

John Baker

Baker is the return the Padres received for Wade Leblanc. Baker is another Padre player with injury questions for 2012. He had only 104 PAs total over the last two years combined.  Baker is a below average defensive catcher, although not horrific. His offense is the reason the Padres acquired him. A .757 career OPS for a catcher is solid. When healthy, Baker is a solid 1-1.5 WAR backup catcher. At $750k, he is a definite bargain for the Padres. Baker will still be under club control for two more years after 2012. He could be affordable enough for the Padres to keep through 2014. The problem with betting on Baker long-term as a Padre is the internal replacement pressures that Byrnes and Black are going to have to face. Hagerty is 1-2 years away and Grandal might be one year away. Grandal already projects to be an upgrade over Baker and Hagerty could replace Baker’s offense at a cheaper price. I cannot envision Baker with the Padres past 2013. Whether or not Baker is with the team in 2013 will depend on Grandal’s continued development. If Baker can prove he is healthy, he could net the Padres a return with a little more value than Wade Leblanc. Look for Baker to be moved after the 2012 season and prior to the trade deadline in 2013.

Nick Hundley

Injuries are becoming a common theme for the Padres going into 2012. Hundley was having a career year in 2011 before being sidelined with injuries. Still, he managed to post over three WAR. He would have likely yielded over four WAR in value had he not been injured. Hundley has shown improvement in both offense and defense since being called up in 2008. He is a “core” player that the Padres need to build with. Despite internal pressure coming from Grandal, I think the Padres would be wise to lock Hundley up to an extension that would buy out at least one year of FA. A healthy Hundley entering his prime could routinely put up 3-5 WAR. This makes him a bargain until his salary gets close to $10m.

The Padres have three years of control left including 2012. Hundley likely won’t reach the $10m salary mark until he hits free agency. I would advocate that the Padres would be wise to keep Hundley around even when Grandal is ready. I see nothing wrong with having 2 stud catchers for a couple years. I would like to see the Padres and Hundley agree to a 3/$18 type deal next offseason.  I have suggested the Padres may begin trading some of their 1-2WAR players that are in arbitration years. Hundley should not be in that category for two reasons. The Padres need to retain some players that have high absolute WAR values. They can have the best bargain team on the planet at $50m, but a team full of 1-2 war players is only going to win around 70 games. The other reason to keep Hundley around is that catching is a premium position and when you have a catcher that is capable of getting a few All-Star votes you generally should keep him if you can afford him.

Jason Bartlett

Rumors persist that Bartlett is on the trade block. Bartlett has averaged around 2-2.5 WAR, depending on which WAR model you prefer, over the course of his career. That performance is in a downward tail spin since the 2009 season. At 32, Bartlett may be leaving his prime years. That said, I still believe Bartlett should produce closer to his career average next season. 1.5-2 WAR for a player that has averaged more and is in a contract year is not too big a stretch, IMO.  I am not sure I buy into all the trade talk surrounding Bartlett. Even his $7m (includes $1.5m buyout) salary is close to his WAR value in 2011. Adequate shortstops are always in demand and I have to believe some team would have already traded for Bartlett is he was freely available. If Bartlett is truly on the block, this would mean the Padres must have some solid confidence in Everth Cabrera and his ability to stay healthy. After Bartlett and Cabrera, the Padres have nobody that could play shortstop adequately on a routine basis. Forysthe and Parrino could fill in for a very short term. The shortage of shortstop replacements has me believing Bartlett may stay with the team for all of 2012 and even be back in 2013 if his option is earned or picked up by the Padres. Players have a tendency to perform better during contract years.

Jesus Guzman

Guzman may have been the most pleasant surprise of the 2011 season for the Padres. Despite his defensive limitations, he managed to put up two WAR in half a season. Guzman will see plenty of at bats in 2012. He will likely platoon with Alonso at first, spell Headley once in a blue moon at third, play outfield on occasion, and DH in AL parks. I would expect the Padres to find Guzman 400-500 AB’s. I believe Guzman still has a full slate of team control left. If Guzman can hit in 2012 anywhere close to his 2011 showing, he could find himself to be a very valuable commodity. The Padres could decide to trade him to an AL team needing a DH or they could hang onto him for his bat. I for one, hope the Padres hang onto Guzman and hold him for ransom if an AL team comes calling. Ask for the moon. The Padres are going to have a hard time getting FA hitters to come to Petco. Having a bat like Guzman’s under team control for six years is exactly what they need.

Chase Headley

Few players have such varying fan opinion as Headley. Some fans love him and others want him traded. I believe this is largely attributed to the fact that he has never developed the power that we all hoped he would have. Despite low power output for third basemen, Headley has quickly become one of the most valuable Padre players. I feel comfortable in referring to Headley as a three WAR player. Headley is a doubles machine, can get on base, can steal a base, and can play average defense. Headley was well on his way to another four WAR season before he was injured. I fully expect Headley to be 100% healthy to start the season and see no reason not to expect 3-4 WAR out of Headley in 2012. At 27, Headley is still an improving player and just entering his prime. At $3.475m for 2012, Headley is a relative bargain that will likely return a 5 to 1 WAR value ratio to the Padres. A player that has solid absolute WAR value as well as considerable surplus value is exactly the type of player the Padres need to retain.

Headley will have two years of team control left after 2012. He will likely earn somewhere around $5-6m in 2013 and $7-9m in 2014. Lucky for the Padres, his lack of power hurts his arbitration value. I am leaning towards the school of thought that says you keep Headley for as long as he represents a surplus value. Can we say for certain that Gyorko will be an upgrade over Headley? With Fosythe, Darnell, and Gyorko all chomping at the bit, the Padres are going to have a tough decision to make regarding Headley sometime in the next year or so. I would prefer to see the Padres wrap up Headley to a 3/$24m extension next offseason. Let Gyorko develop slowly and then play him in the OF for a year if need be. I would like to see the Padres keep a core of young affordable 3+ WAR players in house for several more years while their top prospects help fill out the roster. If an extension is not in Headley’s future, expect the Padres to demand a haul that should include at least two of a team’s top 10 prospects.

Orlando Hudson

If you consider the $2m buyout, the Padres are on the hook for $7.5m in 2012 for Hudson. Hudson does have a club option for 2013. His WAR numbers have declined each year since 2009 and it’s hard to imagine the 34-year-old will turn it around to post a WAR above 2.5 in 2012. I won’t rule it out, though, since he is in a contract year. Realistically, we can expect 1.5 to 2 WAR out of Hudson in 2012. I can’t imagine the Padres picking up his 2013 option for $8m ($6m if you consider the $2m buyout part of 2012) when there are plenty of internal options that could replace his value at a much cheaper cost. There will be internal pressure from Parrino, Forsythe, Cabrera, and Belnome by 2013. Any of the four could adequately replace Hudson’s value at a fraction of the cost. IMO, Hudson is a more likely trade candidate at this point and going into the season than is Bartlett. Hudson is easier replaced. I expect the Padres to move Hudson as quickly as possible. 2012 should be Hudson’s last year with the Padres.

Chris Denorfia

Denorifa is a fan favorite. With fans having no expectation of performance coming into 2010, it is easy to see why fans like him. He has put up over three WAR in total between 2010 and 2011. Not bad for a bench player with roughly the equivalent of one season of batting stats in 2010 and 2011 combined. What makes Denorifa even sweeter for the Padres is they only paid him $800k in 2011 and have agreed to a salary of $1.165m for 2012. Denorfia is under team control again for 2013. For 2012 we can reasonably expect 1.5-2 WAR if Denorfia receives around 350 ABs. This makes Denorfia one of the more valuable assets from a WAR value ratio standpoint. With an expected salary of $2m for 2013 and the ability to play all three outfield positions, I could see the Padres bringing Deno back again in 2013. You could make an argument for a longer term deal for Deno, but with internal options like Tekotte, Blanks, Darnell, and Jaff Decker I find it unlikely the Padres would commit long-term.

Mark Kotsay

This one is easy. Kotsay is nearing the end of his career. He was brought in for one reason, even if management won’t admit it. Kotsay was brought in to be a clubhouse presence and a leader. He won’t take too many at bats from Venable and Denorfia. Kotsay is not a player I would consider a mid-season trade candidate, unless a team in contention really wants him and Kotsay wants to go. Expect to see Kotsay in a Padres uniform for 2012 only.

Cameron Maybin

Maybin is perhaps the best overall player and talent on the current Padres roster. There is no doubt amongst the fans and pundits that Maybin belongs at the core of this Padres team as it moves forward into an exciting era over the next several years. Maybin possesses above average defense, above average speed, average hit tool, and decent pop. This combination makes him a potentially elite player should he continue to develop (he is only 24). Baseball-Reference had his WAR total at 2.9 for 2011 and FanGraphs had him at 4.7. This is quite a large difference. Given his position is one where defense is valued greatly, I am inclined to lean towards FG’s WAR total. If 2011 was no fluke good things are ahead for the Padres and Maybin. Maybin won’t be arbitration eligible until 2013. I don’t need to do the math to know what a value Maybin is and likely will be even when he reaches his final arbitration year. Make no mistake, more than any other Padre I have confidence that Maybin will be around for a long time. He is a Petco player and is young, talented, and affordable. I would like to see the Padres ink Maybin to a 4-5 year deal in the $20-$30m range next offseason. If Maybin is not still here for the 2015 season, that would mean someone like Tate realized his potential and the Padres would have made a blockbuster haul for Maybin.

Carlos Quentin

Quentin’s future with the Padres is hard to figure out. My gut says the Padres want to evaluate how his bat and glove play at Petco before deciding his future. He could be moved during the season and recoup some prospects to make up for the loss of Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez. He could also be on the team all season if they are in contention. When healthy, Quentin has legit power and the ability to hit in the middle of the lineup. The Padres have lacked a player of his power for some time. His defensive limitations will likely limit his WAR to around 2-2.5 tops. This makes Quentin’s $7.025m salary for 2012 a slight bargain. Quentin will be a free agent after the season and I don’t envision the Padres offering him the FA tender required to get compensation should he sign elsewhere. That would likely require the Padres to risk paying him over $12m in 2013. More likely, the Padres take a wait and see attitude with Quentin. If Quentin can prove productive at Petco, the Padres might look to sign him to a 2-3 year deal with a club option. At only 29, I don’t see Quentin’s power vanishing for a few more years. If the Padres find themselves out of contention at mid-season and if Blanks is mashing at Triple-A, the Padres may want to take offers for Quentin. Let’s hope Quentin can hit at Petco and the Padres are in contention.

Will Venable

Hard to believe Venable is 29. Also hard to believe is his steady WAR value considering how streaky of a player he can be. Venable has been essentially a solid two WAR player each of the last three years. He may be one of the more underrated players in this league. Unfortunately, his inconsistency can be maddening to watch. One week he will hit .400 with 2 HR’s, 3 doubles, 2 triples and 12 RBI’s only to follow it up with two weeks of .150 and tons of strikeouts. If Venable can learn to hit lefties (I have my doubts at 29), he could become a three WAR player on a regular basis. For now, I have no problems with projecting him to continue to produce at two WAR for the next couple seasons. Venable received a $1.475m salary for his first year of arbitration eligibility heading into this season. He will remain a solid value likely even through his final year of arbitration. Venable’s long-term future could be influenced by internal pressures. Players that are ready for an outfield spot now include Tekotte, Blanks, and Darnell. Venable’s defense could keep him with the club though, even if he becomes a fourthoutfielder. I think Venable gets moved in 2013 if a solid trade offer presents itself. Tekotte should be able to replace Venable’s offense and defense at a more affordable price.

Overall, the Padres only have a few players on the current roster that I would consider as part of a long-term core. Maybin and Hundley are no brainers. Headley, Guzman, and Stauffer are up for a bit more debate. With all the major league talent sitting in the upper minors in this organization, we should see a lot of roster turnover throughout the next couple of years. The Padres will have the luxury of picking and choosing amongst a glut of young talent coming over the next couple years. Should make for some exciting trade and roster analysis.

Minor thoughts: Runs per game, by league

Over the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about San Diego Padres prospects. In fact, we’ve always spent a lot of time covering prospects here at Friar Forecast. There’s arguably no better time than right now, though, as the Padres have a consensus top five farm system and one of the deepest in baseball.

Scouting is obviously important in the minor leagues, especially at the lower levels. No matter how sophisticated we get, in terms of advanced stats and technology, scouting young baseball players isn’t going anywhere.

With that in mind, baseball is still a game of numbers, and at some point we need to evaluate prospects in terms of performance. One of the difficulties working with minor league numbers is that they are attained in a variety of different environments. You’ve got hitter’s parks in hitter’s leagues, pitcher’s parks in pitcher’s leagues, and everywhere in between.

With that in mind, I thought we would first take a look at each minor league’s run scoring environment, from Low-A through Triple-A.

MILBScoring
data from Baseball-Reference

The above chart shows runs per game in each league since 2009, with a three year average in the far right column. The bold-faced leagues are ones that house Padres affiliates.

First off, you might notice an interesting trend across the minor leagues in general. Run scoring is going up. The total average for all leagues was 4.54 run per game in 2009. It’s jumped up to 4.7 in 2011.

The Padres play in three leagues that are relatively normal, based on the three year averages: the Double-A Texas League, the Single-A Midwest League, and the Low-A Northwest League. The other two, the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and the High-A California League, are the two highest minor league run scoring environments (at least from Low-A up).

The Padres actually have affiliates in the four highest run scoring leagues, as the Northwest League and Texas League are next in line after the PCL and Cal League. It’s a bit concerning that Padres prospects will be accustomed to high-scoring environments in the minor leagues and then have to adjust to the major league’s worst hitter’s park upon reaching the show.

While leagues impact scoring throughout the minors, parks impact scoring within each league. At some point, we’ll take a look at how each Padres affiliate is effected by its home park.

Anyway, this chart should provide a quick reference when you compare a player’s stats across leagues or even years.

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