Am I crazy about a potential Cameron Maybin extension?

Yesterday I wrote about the prospect of the San Diego Padres extending center fielder Cameron Maybin to a long-term deal.

I estimated that a six-year, $40 million deal (plus an option) would be fair to both Maybin and the Padres, giving the center fielder financial security for life and the Padres a chance to maximize surplus value. The proposed six-year deal would buyout Maybin’s first two free agent eligible seasons and keep him around beyond 2015.

In the comments, Websoulsurfer said :

I think Tabata’s 6 yr/$14.25 million deal with 3 option years that could bring total value to $37.25 million w/the Pirates is a good guideline to what kind of offer Maybin will be looking at.

Bill  Center in a chat today :

Any extension granted by the Padres would have to include at least one or two seasons when Maybin was a potential free agent — So you are talking of at least a five or six year deal worth at least $15-$18 million.

Personally, I don’t see him signing for a figure that low. Unless Maybin is risk-averse or not too high on his own abilities, there is little reason for him to sign such a deal.

What do you say?

Extending Cameron Maybin

Recent reports are stating that the San Diego Padres will renew contract negotiations with Cameron Maybin in January (h/t: Chicken Friars). This is good news.

As we’ve discussed lately, the Padres have generally avoided locking up their young players to team-friendly, long-term contracts. Obviously signing a young player to a long-term deal involves some risk from the organization’s side, but the reward is having a productive player under contract for far below market value.

In his first season in San Diego, 24-year-old Cameron Maybin hit .264/.323/.393 in 569 plate appearances, patrolling center field in Petco Park. Maybin’s game offers speed (40 for 48 on stolen bases), defense (+9.5 UZR, +12 DRS), and a promising bat (it was above-average in 2011) in an exciting combination.

Depending on your source, Maybin was worth anywhere from 2.9 WAR to 4.7 WAR in 2011, with the difference due to both offensive and defensive value. Either way, Maybin was very good in 2011, and he’s just entering into his prime.

Maybin isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2013 and he’s under Padres control through 2015. From the Padres perspective, it would make a lot of sense to get Maybin locked up for more than four years to avoid the arbitration process all together and also (perhaps more importantly) buy out some free agent years.

The recent deal that Tampa Bay and Matt Moore agreed to was five years, $14 million (with options that could extend the contract to eight years, $40 million). Maybin is more established at the major league level, a position player, and further along in service-time – he’s going to want more than $14 million to sign on long-term.

Let’s take a look at Maybin’s expected market value over the next six years:

Year Proj. WAR Est. Salary (M) Market value (M)
2012 2.5 $.5 $12.5
2013 2.8 $5 $14.8
2014 3.1 $8 $17.4
2015 3.1 $12 $18.3
2016 2.8 $17.4 $17.4
2017 2.5 $16.3 $16.3

As usual, there are a lot of assumptions and estimations being made here. Consider these numbers more for illustration than any serious evaluation.

If the Padres play it year-by-year with Maybin and he performs well, they’ll net over $35 million in surplus value through 2015. In 2016, he’ll become a free agent and likely won’t be returning to San Diego. In extending Maybin, the goal should be to grab a couple of those free agent years to keep the center fielder in San Diego a few years longer.

There is incentive to play it year-by-year for the Padres – they’ll still get a ton of value out of Maybin if he produces, and if he doesn’t there isn’t a long-term commitment. Still, if they want to avoid the the arbitration process and keep Maybin around for more than four years, they should try to lock him up now.

The Friar Forecast recommendation: six  years, $40 million (2018 club option $14 million).

Maybin gets $40 million guaranteed, a decent little sum of money. The Padres lock up their (hopefully) stud center fielder at a very reasonable cost, buying out two of his free agent seasons (potentially three, if they pick up the option).

The only way for the Padres to keep someone like Maybin around after  2015 is by taking a calculated risk and locking him up early in his career. We’ll see if they decide to do it.

Does Petco really devour lefties?

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled programming with this important announcement…

I had planned to write my companion piece analyzing overlooked/underlooked prospects, but Steve Adler at Friarhood posed an interesting question on his website about left-handed slugging Padres at Petco. His article brings up some pertinent ideas as to whether the Padres have had a bona fide lefty slugger with a tendency to pull. Consequently, he wonders if Petco has been given an erroneous reputation as a lefty killer.

The question got me thinking, and I honestly couldn’t come up with any pull lefty sluggers except for Ryan Klesko, and he was at Petco near the end of his career. Adrian Gonzalez was a lefty slugger, but he did not rely on the ability to pull for much of his power.

So, when the lefties don’t come to you, you go to the lefties. I compiled a list of 15 left-handed hitters who have had 25 or more at bats at Petco. Why 25+ AB’s? Well, it’s not a great sample size, admittedly, but after doing the research, I wanted to include many players in the analysis. Now, they’re not all “sluggers,” in a true sense either, as the lowest career SLG% on my list belongs to Ichiro Suzuki at .421. I wanted to take a somewhat broader approach in looking at how lefties have hit for extra bases at Petco.

I researched the players’ career at bats at Petco, focusing on 2B, 3B, HR, and SLG%. I then compared their Petco SLG to their Career SLG. The results were interesting. For the table below, I sorted the data based on the amount of change between their SLG percentages.

PLYR AB 2B 3B HR PetcoSLG CareerSLG Change
J. Loney 26 1 0 0 0.154 0.432 -0.278
C. Gonzalez 82 4 0 2 0.354 0.521 -0.167
C. Utley 78 4 0 2 0.410 0.505 -0.095
P. Fielder 61 3 0 4 0.459 0.540 -0.081
A. Gonzalez 1410 66 5 57 0.442 0.514 -0.072
E. Hinske 30 3 0 0 0.400 0.437 -0.037
I. Suzuki 92 4 1 0 0.391 0.421 -0.030
A. Huff 93 6 0 3 0.441 0.466 -0.025
T. Helton 34 4 0 1 0.559 0.550 0.009
R. Howard 78 5 1 5 0.590 0.560 0.030
J. Heyward 36 4 0 1 0.500 0.427 0.073
A. Dunn 90 4 0 7 0.578 0.503 0.075
A. LaRoche 106 10 0 7 0.594 0.478 0.116
B. McCann 67 6 0 4 0.627 0.486 0.141
J. Votto 40 2 0 4 0.750 0.550 0.200

As you can see from the table above, of the 15 guys profiled,  eight have seen a decrease in their slugging percentage points while playing at Petco. For those eight players, the average decrease in SLG was seven points. For the remaining seven players, their SLG% increased at Petco. The average increase for that group was over nine percentage points.

So, what in the world does all of this mean?

I’m definitely not a sabermetrician, and my wife (as well as my English students) would certainly question my proficiency in mathematics, but it seems to me that it’s a coin toss as to whether a player’s ability to hit for extra bases is hampered by Petco. In James Loney’s case, his slugging drops a whopping 28 percentage points in San Diego…but then again, he barely qualifies with 26 AB’s. Carlos Gonzalez, on the other hand, has 82 AB’s but sees a point drop of 17 in his SLG percentage. On the opposite end you find that Joey Votto swings for extras nearly 20 points better.

I think, in order for the park to have a reputation as a place where lefties can’t hit, you’d like to see some more definitive results. Instead of eight…maybe that number should be more like 10 or even 12. Or…maybe their production should drop more dramatically. Instead of seven percentage points, maybe closer to 10? In this comparison, the data seems to point to Petco being fairly neutral to lefties and their ability to hit for extra bases.

Now…this is certainly no standard regression analysis. There aren’t any figures for variance or deviation. Are there flaws? Sure. Maybe the comparison between Petco SLG% and career SLG% isn’t comparing apples to apples. Maybe day games vs. night games or weather should be a factor. Maybe the pitchers they faced should be included in the analysis. Maybe I should have calculated their SLG% after pulling out the Petco AB’s. The list goes on and on.

But that’s the thing about studying baseball and statistics. There are always “ifs” and “maybes” when looking at the data. I guess the point of this piece, then, is to get the conversation going and discover some more angles on this topic. It is true, I’ve heard Petco described as a place lefties go to die, but I’m starting to question what information that reputation has been built upon.

I have seen lots of good work done on how Petco suppresses offense. And the data above bears this out as well. The average career SLG% for those 15 players is .493. The average Petco SLG% for that same group is .483, a fairly significant 10 point drop in slugging percentage points at Petco.

However, if we start specifying that a certain type of hitter is stifled, we should tread carefully before making that final determination.

Happy holidays!

We would like to wish you a happy holiday season from the Friar Forecast Headquarters. May you and yours have a wonderful time.

And thanks for sticking around these parts. Things were slow for a while, but we’re back and we’ve got plenty planned for the new year. The support is much appreciated.

-Myron

Mat Latos trade links

Rounding up some opinions from around the Internet ….

Padres

Reds

National

Putting themselves on the map

Editor’s note: We’re happy to add Chris to the mix here at Friar Forecast. He’ll be contributing weekly. Chris writes at Padres Pulpit.

Hello there! Glad to have the opportunity to publish my first article here at Friar Forecast. I hope to stick around and contribute to the discussion of all things Padres for some time to come.

It’s getting to be that time of year again, when fans and pundits alike begin compiling their top prospect lists. If you pay close attention (and I’m sure you are), you’ll find that the list of Expert Y is remarkably similar to Expert X: some slight variations in rank, but generally all the same guys. You won’t find that coming from me. Ranking prospects tends to scramble my brain as much as or more than having a 2-year old and a 6-month old. Combine the two, and I’m eating my meals through a straw.

Instead, I’m going to look for a diamond in the rough. I’ll focus on a “prospect” that you won’t see on any of the lists: 1B/3B/DH Connor Powers.

Powers is a right-handed slugger who stands at a solid 6’2″ tall, filling out to 220 lbs. He was drafted by the Padres in the 21st round of the 2010 amateur draft out of…maybe you’ve heard of it–Mississippi State–where, as a freshman, he was the starting 3B. He clubbed 8 HR that season, good for third on the team. He later transitioned to 1B and produced a senior season where he hit .379 AVG with 18 2B, 16 HR, and 68 RBI. Powers finished his collegiate career with a .333 AVG, 54 HR, and 206 RBI.

His first season (2010) in Eugene was a setback, as he hit .191/.315/.287 (.602 OPS). That season is likely the reason he doesn’t show up on many lists. However, this past season, he put himself back on the map in a big way with a slash line of: .338/.422/.538 (.961 OPS). He smashed 29 2B and 8 HR in 275 AB in what is considered to be an offense-suppressing league. By comparison, Rymer Liriano–a #1 prospect on several lists–hit: .319/.383/.499. Of course, Liriano had 180 more AB and is 3 years younger.

What I like about Powers is that he shows excellent plate discipline (BB%=13.0) for a big power guy. At Ft. Wayne, he walked 42 times in 76 games. He’s also a right-handed bat, which is less likely to be devoured by Petco’s dimensions. Granted, the sample size is too small, but his 2011 ISO of .200 would place him around the level of a 2010 Mark Reynolds in terms of power.  Now, San Diego would benefit from more of the speed/defensive-minded position players, but they’ll still need a couple of sluggers to knock the burners in. I believe Powers could be that guy.

On the defensive side, Powers is strong. In his first season at 1B while playing for Mississippi State, he made one error in 422 chances. At Ft. Wayne, he made 8 errors at 1B and 1 error at 3B over a total of 573 chances. While he logged 15 games at 3B for the TinCaps, he profiles much better at first and has shown that he can handle the position well.

A comparison I have in mind is Carlos Lee, a right-handed slugging OF/1B currently with Houston, who came up in the White Sox organization. In 1996, Lee hit .313/.337/.435 as a 20-year old in Lo-A. He hit 23 2B and 8 HR that season. Obviously, the sample size for Powers is small, so the comparison isn’t a perfect one, but if he can continue to make these type of gains, he could turn out to be a middle-of-the-order run-producer for San Diego by 2014 or 2015.

I’ve picked Powers because he is a player who I see as being on the verge of making a big splash this coming season. He’ll likely move up to Hi-A Lake Elsinore…very much an offense-boosting league. Will he continue to be near a .411 BABIP? Absolutely not. However, expect him to put up some big numbers once again this season, solidifying his place in the prospect rankings.

GM Byrnes makes first big splash, deals Mat Latos to Reds

Newly anointed San Diego Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes has not been shy about pulling the trigger, trading for John Baker, Huston Street, and Cory Burns so far this winter.

On Saturday, however, Byrnes made his first blockbuster deal as Padres GM, sending 24 year-old ace Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Edinson Volquez, 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, and RHP Brad Boxberger. For names alone, this deal is a doozy.

Latos will not become arbitration-eligible until 2013, so he’ll be under Reds control for four more years. The Reds are getting a bona fide number one starter here, with potential to develop into one of the better pitcher’s in the game.

In Latos’ first full season, 2010, he put up a 2.92 ERA in 184.7 innings (189 strikeouts, 50 walks). Latos finished eighth in Cy Young voting and put up anywhere from three to four WAR, depending on where you look.

Last season, Latos went through a very mild case of sophomore-itis, as his ERA and walk rate climbed slightly, while his strikeout numbers declined. Still, he put together a formidable campaign and solidified himself as a front-end starter.

As impressive as Latos has been, consider his career ERA+ is only 108; above average, but far from Earth-shattering. Like any pitcher who gets the benefit of throwing a good portion of his innings in Petco Park, Latos is a bit overrated. He simply isn’t as good as his raw numbers, and it’ll remain to be seen how he adjusts to working outside of a pitcher’s paradise.

Let’s estimate Latos surplus value, just for kicks:

Year WAR $/WAR Proj. salary FA value Surplus value
2012 3.5 5 $500K $17.5M $17M
2013 4 5.3 $8.5M $21.2M $12.7
2014 3.5 5.6 $11.8M $19.6M $7.8
2015 3.5 5.9 $16.5M $20.7M $4.2
Total - - - - $41.7

When the Padres dealt Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox last offseason, we estimated his surplus value at $21 million, as Gonzalez only had one year left under contract. The packages the Padres received for each player may look more similar than expected, however, as Gonzalez is better than Latos year-to-year and more of a sure-thing (being a position player). Further, the Red Sox knew they were going to be able to lock him up.

Anyway, back to the Latos deal. The Padres did get a lot in return for the young starter. Edinson Volzquez, 28, is simply a gamble. Volquez racked up 4.8 WAR (B-Ref) in his breakout 2008 season; in the rest of his career, Volquez has been worth –1.6 WAR. That’s about all you need to know about him. He’ll benefit from Petco and should provide some depth in the back-end of the Padres rotation. Volzquez is arbitration-eligible in 2012 and under control through 2014.

Yonder Alonso, drafted seventh overall in 2008 by the Reds,  has been dubbed the key piece in this deal. Curiously, however, he has a similar long-term outlook to the recently acquired (from the aforementioned Gonzalez deal) Anthony Rizzo. In fact, Rizzo has put up better overall minor league numbers and he’s a couple years younger than Alonso.

While Rizzo has struggled big-time against MLB pitching (.141/.281/.242, 153 PAs), Alsono has thrived (.299/.354/.479, 127 PAs). While that’s an extremely limited sample, it certainly doesn’t hurt Alonso’s case. There’s also some talk that Alonso’s gap-to-gap approach may be better-suited for Petco. One would think that one of either Alonso or Rizzo may be dealt soon. Alonso is under Padres control through 2018.

Yasmani Grandal, 23, was drafted in the first round (12th overall) of the 2010 draft by the Reds, but he only got 33 plate appearances in Rookie Ball that year. He flew through the system last season, though, going from Low-A to Triple-A while hitting .305/.401/.500 in the process. He has work to do behind the plate, but he did throw out 34 percent of base stealers last season.

While the Padres aren’t in desperate need of a catcher thanks to Nick Hundley’s emergence, Grandal definitely has the potential to surpass Hundley in a year or two. He offers a lot more upside, obviously. Positional scarcity, a rock-solid debut campaign, and less of a road block at catcher lead one to believe that Grandal may be the true centerpiece of this deal.

Brad Boxberger, 23, was drafted 43rd overall by the Reds in 2009. Primarily working as a reliever, Boxberger has put up some gaudy numbers in the minors, striking out 11.9 per nine while surrendering .6 HR/9. His control has been a bit shaky, as he walked 4.1 per nine in each of his first two minor league seasons.

His size (6-2, 200) and control might worry you, not to mention the fact that he’s been used mostly in relief so far, but Boxberger clearly has potential to develop into something of use.

Baseball America’s recently posted Reds Top Ten has Alonso ranked third, Grandal fourth, and Boxberger tenth.

While these trades are ultimately tough to face as Padres fans, we’re getting used to it – Peavy Gonzalez, and Latos have all departed in recent seasons. Latos was home-grown, rose quickly through the system, and established himself as a legitimate front-line starter. It’s tough to see him go.

Still, from an analytical standpoint, it’s satisfying to see the Padres try to build for the near-future, and this is a creative and bold way to do it. While Latos could have definitely contributed in a big way to the next Padres contender, the package they received has the potential to have a more significant impact. Apparently, Byrnes and company did not believe Latos was a long-term fit.

The Padres pick up three young cost-controlled prospects for one young big-league starter. It’s not a no-brainer, by any means, but there’s a reason San Diego is being lauded nationally in this deal (though, yes, you have the right to be a little worried since Jim Bowden is such a big fan).

Mat Latos traded to Cincinnati Reds

The San Diego Padres have traded RHP Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Edinson Volquez, 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, and RHP Brad Boxberger. Alonso, Grandal, and Boxberger were recently ranked third, fourth, and tenth respectively on Baseball America’s Reds Top 10 prospects.

This is obviously a franchise-changing type move, as the Padres have traded a potential ace (still under control for four seasons) for a back of the rotation starter and three solid prospects. We’ll have more in-depth analysis on the deal later.

For now, feel free to discuss the deal here.

Padres deal Aaron Cunningham to Indians for Cory Burns

The San Diego Padres have apparently dealt OF Aaron Cunningham to the Cleveland Indians for RHP Cory Burns.

Cunningham was originally acquired by the Padres with Scott Hairston in the 2010 deal that sent Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Sogard to the Oakland A’s. Cunningham had a very solid year in 2010, hitting .288/.331/.417 in 147 plate appearances. He struggled last season, putting up a .178/.257/.367 line in just 101 PAs.

Cunningham, who will only be 26 in April, still has a chance to become a decent fourth outfield if given a shot in Cleveland.

Right-hander Cory Burns was drafted in the eighth round of the 2009 draft by the Indians. Never highly-regarded by scouts, Burns has rose promisingly through the Indians system. So far in 147.3 innings, he’s struck out a whopping 188, walked just 35, and given up only seven homers. Some gaudy numbers, for sure, but he is a reliever and his stuff isn’t overwhelming.

Ben Badler of Baseball America describes Burns on Twitter:

New Padres RHP Cory Burns: Huge K-rate, below-average stuff and a windup that evokes Hideo Nomo.

The delivery:

Burns may remind you of a guy like Joe Thatcher, disregarding their respective handedness. Dominant minor league numbers, a bit old for his league, funky delivery, etc. In fact, look at their minor league numbers:

Player Innings Strikeouts/9 Walks/9 HR/9
Burns 147.3 11.5 2.1 .4
Thatcher 264 11.3 2.4 .3

While Burns is far from a sure-thing to develop into a major league reliever, there’s a decent chance he can carve out a specialist role in the Padres bullpen, ala Thatcher, is the near future.

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