Friday, February 27, 2009
The timing of when these players are cut makes a difference. Because clearing waivers take three days and being designated for assignment can take ten, a player DFA'd the day before opening day may not be available on opening day.
However, I'm just going to go ahead and assume that each player will be available for the minor league rosters. Most players who are out of options clear waivers during the season, because the claiming team also must keep them on the Major League roster. Hessman has cleared waivers in the past, and I don't see much of a demand for Clevlen* on the waiver wire. McBride could have issues clearing, but given the lack of demand for lefty relievers in the free agent market, I'm not sure he'd be claimed. That brings us to Willis, who was just touched up for four runs in his inning plus of work in his spring debut. The assumption I am making is that he will accept optional assignment because I project him to continue to struggle this spring. I still haven't ruled out the possibility of the Tigers eating his salary.
*On a side note, I listened to yesterday's game and the Nationals' radio broadcaster repeatedly pronounced Clevlen's name with a short E, making a point that it is not pronounced like the city. Except for the fact that it is. I thought it was funny. I would also like to thank Joe Posnanski for popularizing the asterisk induced sidenote. It's a nice touch.
One more thing, I am assuming James Skelton is not returning. While the Diamondbacks' inability to trade Miguel Montero hurts his chances of making the roster, I am still projecting him to stick with them.
So, with all of these players available, here's an initial projection for the Toledo roster.
A lot can change between now and opening day. In the rotation, Christensen is the only 2008 Erie starter to make the jump. I had to cut the relievers down from 15 to 7. That could have been done in any way. Some notable missing players include Scott Williamson (projected retirement), Brendan Wise/Matt Rusch (Erie), Jason Miller (lefty overload), and Ron Chiviacci (projected cut). I included players like Jon Huber and Nick Regilio, because late signings tend to be more likely to make the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, I went with 12 players because Toledo has historically done this. Don Kelly makes the team because of his flexibility. However, with Rhymes, Worth, and Hollimon here, Kelly may be an odd man out. I initially had Casper Wells pencilled in, but there didn't appear to be enough playing time to go around for him, and he seems most likely among these outfielders to be held back in Erie. Remember, Brent Clevlen still has to clear waivers, so things can change.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
There are 13 spots that are likely to be available for pitchers. Simple math will confirm that there are four bench spots. With Brandon Inge moving to third base, the team will not be able to save a roster spot by having a backup catcher play the infield and outfield as well, so there will likely be two catchers, at least five infielders, a designated hitter, four outfielders, and one other player.
Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor probably have these spots locked up. Dusty Ryan and Dane Sardinha are the other two catchers in camp with major league experience, and are likely headed for Toledo. Jeff Kunkel, Alex Avila, and Max St. Pierre are all in camp as extra catchers to help out with all the pitchers in camp.
Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Adam Everett, and Brandon Inge are clearly the starters. Ramon Santiago also seems to have a spot locked up at the backup middle infielder. Michael Hollimon is likely to be ready for the start of the season, but his option status and defensive weaknesses likely have him headed to Toledo. Cale Iorg is in big league camp with a chance to impress. He's likely headed to Erie. Scott Sizemore, William Rhymes, and Don Kelly are also in camp. Sizemore is recovering from a wrist injury that wiped out most of last season. He's probably getting a look because Polanco's contract is up after the season and the Tigers want to see if they can fill the void internally. Rhymes and Kelly are longshots as well.
That leaves Jeff Larish, Mike Hessman, and Ryan Raburn. I'll have more on them after the outfielders.
Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, and Magglio Ordonez are the starters. Gary Sheffield is slotted as the DH. Longshots for a spot include Casper Wells, Wilkin Ramirez, and hopefully Alexis Gomez. Brent Clevlen is out of options, but is close to a longshot as well. Clete Thomas is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, and I'm projecting him to start on a DL. Timo Perez is back and projects to head to Toledo. That leaves Marcus Thames, who probably has a spot. That's 24 players on the roster, and we can talk about the last three now.
Jeff Larish played some third last year, and is spending time in the outfield now. Ryan Raburn can play second and third base as well as all three outfield positions, but none of those positions particularly well. Mike Hessman has a reputation as a top defensive third baseman, and his power can't be questioned. Unless Clevlen has a great spring, you'd have to think those three guys are the ones in the hunt for the last spot. With a switch hitter in left field and right handed hitters at third, first, designated hitter, and right field, could the edge be given to Larish? Or could Ryan Raburn get a job giving Jim Leyland a platoon option in center field? I'm going to go with Ryan Raburn in the final spot for now.
Here's the projected position players as of today:
Despite the glowing words for Dontrelle Willis and Macay McBride, I'm going to keep the pitchers the same for now. Toledo's roster will be next.
Yurendell de Caster
The Tigers' four best hitters will be on display during this tournament. I'm a bit weary about Galarraga being on an abnormal schedule, especially with his injury history and large innings jump last year. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for Ni, as I am particularly curious about what he brings to the table. Brendan Wise is another dark horse arm (probably headed for Erie) known for his sinker. Graham and de Caster are roster filler at best.
The Tigers have posted their media guide for the 2009 season here. They've also posted the 2008 guide, as well as archived guides from 1960-1982. I've been digging through this for information, which is why there has been somewhat of a delay in the roster projections. I plan to pick those up with the MLB position players this afternoon.
Friday, February 13, 2009
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation," the commissioner said Thursday, three days after the Yankees star admitted using banned substances from 2001 to 2003 while playing for Texas.
"While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances, and those who use them have shamed the game," Selig said.
I wish I had more time to rip Bud a new one. Instead, I'll just say F#$@ You, hypocrite!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The bullpen competition is wide open this year. In doing these projections, I am going to assume five right-handers and two southpaws. This has been the standard setup since Leyland took over the reigns three years ago. Listed among the candidates is every pitcher in camp not among the projected starters with three exceptions. Eddie Bonine, Jon Kibler, and Rick Porcello are not listed because they appear to be exclusively starters at this point.
Redundant Players, already mentioned with the starters:
Kyle Bloom, L: A rule 5 pick, so the Tigers will want to be extra sure there's no potential before sending him back to Pittsburgh. I haven't heard anything about Bloom in a while, but you'd have to imagine a strong spring would leave him as the second lefty, much to the chagrin of Macay McBride and Clay Rapada.
Alfredo Figaro, R: Hasn't pitched above Lakeland and hasn't succeeded above West Michigan. Figaro will need to have turned a few corners before getting a bullpen job this year. I'd say he's likely destined for a rotation in Erie or Lakeland, or if they want to get him on a fast track, to relief.
Chris Lambert, R: Possibly a long reliever candidate. I don't see room for him right now. With three options remaining, I don't think the Tigers would mind using one to send him to Toledo to start games.
Zach Miner, R: As I mentioned yesterday, Miner is still a candidate to start. If one of Robertson and Willis show something in the spring, Miner could be off to the bullpen to be a starter in waiting. It confounds some people, but Miner still has two options years left just in case. No team gets 162 starts from their opening day rotation; very few get 120. He will get a chance to start games, but can be valuable as a long man.
Fu-Te Ni, L: Another wild card this spring. A strong camp could have Ni making those of us who find Monty Python unfunny and annoying want to stay away from Comerica Park. As it stands, I'm projecting him for Toledo, because unlike three other lefties in competition for bullpen jobs, he can be sent there without being lost.
Ryan Perry, R: Hey look! Another complete unknown. It's not hard to forsee a scenario where Perry makes the big league club out of spring. However, until that happens, I'm going to have him slotted for Erie.
Dontrelle Willis, L: I get the feeling Willis will either be fully recovered and in the rotation or struggling to throw strikes and in limbo. I don't see him in the bullpen right now.
Full time relievers:
Rudy Darrow, R: Darrow may be one of those "Use him while you've got him" guys. The sidearmer has a very painful looking motion, one that has already sent him under the knife in 2005. Take a look at this picture to see what I mean.
Stop me if you've heard this before. Darrow is a candidate for the pen if he impresses the right people this spring. The mere fact that there is competition for the bullpen spots tells me things will improve this year.
Freddy Dolsi, R: After a meteoric rise to the bullpen last year, you have to wonder if Dolsi did enough to stick around. Once again, a lot will depend on his spring. We'll pencil him in for now.
Casey Fien, R: After almost making the team out of spring last year, Fien put up a fine season in Erie and Toledo. Since being drafted in 2006 in 164.2 IP, Fien has struck out 173 batters and walked just 34. I'm sold.
Brandon Lyon, R: I don't particularly care who's closer. Getting outs in the 7th and 8th innings is important too. That said, Lyon seems to be the front-runner for the closer spot. He's an upgrade on Todd Jones, and is as close as a lock as a reliever can be.
Macay McBride, L: Kyle Bloom will get a lot of talk as a Rule 5 draftee, but Macay McBride, being out of options, can't be sent to Toledo if he misses the team either. Recovering from Tommy John Surgery, the DL could be an option for McBride if there isn't room for him. I haven't heard anything about how his rehab is going.
Clay Rapada, L: I'm racking my brain for reasons that Casey Fossum was on the roster over Rapada last year. With one option year remaining, Toledo could be his destination again while Bloom and McBride fight over the second lefty spot.
Juan Rincon, R: The former Twin signed a minor league deal and will have to show something in order to make the team. The last two (post-steroid) years have been pretty ugly for Rincon. I don't see him making the squad without a major resurgence or some Leyland Veteran Fetish.
Fernando Rodney, R: It's February 10, and Fernando Rodney hasn't had an injury yet in 2009. Another "lock" for the bullpen unless that shoulder acts up. He's got almost two months, so I'd say that's fairly likely.
Bobby Seay, L: Probably a lock as the bullpen's primary lefty. Seay has been solid in the bullpen, but you would ideally like to see some dominance. You have to pencil him in for now.
Zach Simons, R: Lumped in with Perry, Fien, and Darrow as rookie relievers with a shot with a nice Spring. A word of warning with Simons: That .232 BABIP in Lakeland last year was pretty fluky. He may not be the pitcher his surface numbers in Lakeland suggest.
Scott Williamson, R: Scott Williamson is a great pitcher when he's healthy. Unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy since 2003. Matt Mantei, Part 3, I think he retires during the spring.
Joel Zumaya, R: Cutting to the chase, I don't think Zumaya will be ready for the season. I'm projecting him for the DL, hoping that the Tigers take it easy on him. Zumaya is Exhibit A in why you should use big arms while you've got them.
So, in summary
Lyon, Rodney, Miner (assuming he's not in the rotation), and Seay appear to be locks. I've got Bloom in as the second lefty because he can't be demoted (and McBride can go on the DL). Dolsi's got a job to lose, and Casey Fien seems to be the closest to MLB ready among the rookie candidates. Zumaya and McBride start on the DL. Willis accepts his assignment to Toledo or Lakeland. The rest will go into the minor league pool of candidates as we work our way down.
This is a wide open competition, and I will be adjusting this frequently based on some of the news from Lakeland. The position players are next.
Monday, February 09, 2009
To start, I wanted to look at the starting pitchers in Big League camp. Rather than start with the seven who are presumed to be in competition for a starting job, I will look at every player who could be a starting pitcher this year. This is to ensure that nobody is being left behind. In alphabetical order:
Kyle Bloom: Not thought of as a starting candidate, but has been predominantly a starter in the minors. It was widely reported that he took some major steps in the right direction in 2008, and it showed in his split statistics. Bloom is a long shot, but a strong spring could land him in the bullpen. If he impresses the Tigers, they will likely do what they can to keep him on the roster this year.
Jeremy Bonderman: All of the articles on Bonderman are glowing. (Which articles this time of year aren't glowing?) If he has indeed regained his velocity, he is halfway to returning to the pitcher he was in 2006 and the first half of 2007. The other half, of course, is the command of his fastball. He needs to get ahead of the count in order to fully utilize that slider. I've got Bonderman pencilled into the rotation. This will be the case until there is some bad news in his recovery. Many pitchers have recoverred fully from his condition.
Eddie Bonine: Now on a spring invite after being sent outright to Toledo last week, Bonine is also a long shot. Of primary concern for Bonine will be ensuring that he returns from his torn lat injury without hurting himself in other ways. Two recent torn lat recoveries have not ended well. Ben Sheets tore his lat muscle in August, 2005 and got off to a slow start in 2006, missing some time with shoulder tendinitis. Also, Chad Cordero was diagnosed with a torn lat last year, but ended up with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Hopefully Bonine can recover and take some steps forward this year. If he does, he may be a more formidable emergency option over the summer.
Alfredo Figaro: Figaro is listed in the name of completeness. He's probably not a serious candidate, but he's a starting pitcher (for now) and will be in camp. During the Skelton rants, I took my fair share of shots at Figaro, so we'll keep those to a minimum now. Even for the bullpen, Figaro is a long shot at this point.
Armando Galarraga: Buster Olney, last week, said Galarraga is a candidate for the rotation. Either Olney is way ahead of the curve and realizes how lucky some of Galarraga's numbers were or he is clueless as to the role that Galarraga played on this team last year. Given some of his Baseball Tonight stints that I have seen, I'd lean toward the latter. Galarraga, despite being one of the few candidates with options, will have to blow up this spring to avoid the rotation. He's not a lock, but he's not in competition.
Count me as one who is not at all excited to see Galarraga's name on Venezuela's provisional World Baseball Classic roster. A pitcher with a history of elbow problems coming off a career high in innings needs to be under his team's care in Spring Training.
Edwin Jackson: I still believe this is a darkhorse closer candidate. This runs contrary to everything that Leyland and Dombrowski have said about him since the trade. It just seemed that a hard throwing pitcher with iffy numbers and control issues could do well in relief. If all of the candidates recover, I wouldn't rule that out. As it stands now, Jackson is slated for the rotation, and I'll have him pencilled in, ignoring my speculative side.
Jon Kibler: The Tigers' 2008 Minor League pitcher of the year was rewarded with this invite, but it's very hard to see him on the team this year. I'd imagine a strong spring would merely lead to Kibler skipping Lakeland this year.
Chris Lambert: Did not impress scouts in Toledo. Despite the fine season last year, he's got his work cut out to crack the rotation. The troubling cup of coffee with the big club is made better by a ton of unearned runs which would have made his ERA even worse with a different official scorer. I'll include Lambert with the bullpen candidates.
Zach Miner: Miner has been somewhat forgotten since the Edwin Jackson acquisition. I like Miner a lot better as a starter, but Jim Leyland disagrees. Miner is certainly a candidate, but his status probably depends on the recoveries of Bonderman, Robertson, and Willis.
Fu-Te Ni: The import from Chinese Taipai, Ni's a bit of an unknown. I include him with the starters just in case, but it seems like everything points to him heading to the pen. It will be interesting if he chooses to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic or try to make an impression on the Tigers' brass.
Ryan Perry: Included for completion. I don't think he's a candidate for the rotation. It appears as if Perry is destined for relief and could move quickly. I'll have him with the reliever candidates. A lot depends on this spring.
Rick Porcello: There's some talk that he could crack the team. I'd think a lot would have to go wrong in order for there to be a spot for him right off the bat, however.
Nate Robertson: Recovering from an off year, this is a huge spring for Robertson. I get the feeling improved defense from Curtis Granderson and the shortstop position could go a long way for him. All of the fluff pieces talk about Nate getting in shape. Hopefully that translates.
Justin Verlander: Probably the only lock* in the rotation. I'd go into a discussion about how much his numbers would have looked if he had better teammates last year, but this would take a while. It's true, though, that his offense, defense, and bullpens failed him on numerous occassions. That 11-17 4.84 line should probably look more like 17-11 3.84. Then again, if you are reading this blog, you probably know how flawed W-L ERA is when evaluating pitchers.
*When you are dealing with people throwing baseball overhand at 90+ mph, there is no such thing as a pure lock. Injuries happen.
Dontrelle Willis: The fluff pieces on Willis are in full force. I won't buy it until he can go a few Spring Training innings without a walk or wild pitch. I don't see him cracking the rotation as things stand right now. Luckily, these projections are fluid enough that we can adjust for that later in the spring.
In alphabetical order (I hate arguments over rotation numbers. They don't matter!), here is the projected rotation as of February 9:
Robertson's spot is probably the most tenuous. He's helped by his contract and the fact that he stunk in relief last year. This means Zach Miner is projected to be headed to the pen for the time being. As for Willis, we'll move him with the relief candidates, but he could be headed to the minor leagues. Bear in mind that my projection is that Willis will not regain his control and will not be in a position to refuse his assignment. If he pitches well this spring, he has a rotation spot.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Waiting until after the June draft could make sense for Cabrera - he'd wipe out the draft pick problem, probably still get $2MM, and won't get Type A status again.
It's an interesting thought. Cabrera could wait until June and lose two months of stats in an attempt to lose Type A Status, but would it work? Before digging in, let's take a look at the shortstop rankings from last season:
|Michael Young (A) ||88.000|
|Orlando Cabrera (A) ||86.000|
|Derek Jeter (A) ||84.000|
|Jhonny Peralta (A) ||82.286|
|Edgar Renteria (A) ||79.429|
|Carlos Guillen (B) ||68.000|
To check, I will remove Cabrera's 2008 numbers from Opening Day through June 15 to see how his ranking looks.
|Michael Young (A) ||88.571 |
|Derek Jeter (A) ||85.714|
|Jhonny Peralta (A) ||83.429|
|Edgar Renteria (A) ||81.143|
|Orlando Cabrera (A) ||75.429|
|Carlos Guillen (B) ||68.000|
Wow. The two months would not have done the trick for Cabrera, as he still would have been a Type A free agent.
What if Cabrera, with his actual stats, had been in the National League?
|Jimmy Rollins (A) ||85.185|
|Troy Tulowitzki (A) ||81.481|
|Hanley Ramirez (A) ||79.894|
|Jose Reyes (A) ||78.307|
|Orlando Cabrera (A) ||78.307|
|Miguel Tejada (A) ||75.132|
|J.J. Hardy (B) ||67.725|
He would have had a much weaker hold on a Type A spot, but would have retained it. What about with his numbers through June 15 removed?
|Jimmy Rollins (A) ||85.185|
|Troy Tulowitzki (A) ||82.011|
|Hanley Ramirez (A) ||80.952|
|Jose Reyes (A) ||79.365|
|Miguel Tejada (A) ||76.190|
|J.J. Hardy (B) ||68.783|
|Orlando Cabrera (B) ||68.254|
He becomes a Type B. There is no doubt that there is a disparity between the shortstops in the American League and National League. It is also likely that this will grow. With Rollins, Tulowitzki, Ramirez, and Reyes in their prime and other young starters like Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy, and Yunel Escobar coming on, the National League figures to have stronger shortstops for the foreseeable future. Also, with almost all of the projected starters for 2009 putting up solid and full 2008 seasons, a player like Cabrera would have a very hard time rising to the Type A's.
In addition, the American League 2009 crop of shortstops could be even weaker than 2008 as far as the Elias rankings go. In Boston, Anaheim, Seattle, Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, Toronto, and Baltimore, there are competitions for jobs or non contributors from 2008 slated to play in 2009. What does this mean to these rankings? Quite simply, no shortstops will be racking up counting stats. In addition, Carlos Guillen is off the position for good, while Michael Young is confirmed to be leaving the position and Johnny Peralta could be right behind him. While Young and Peralta will still be in next year's rankings, they would be missing out on total chances at shortstop, killing their Elias Ranking like what happened to Carlos Guillen in 2008. Finally, the core group of American League shortstops, Jeter and Young, are in a state of decline and could see their numbers continue to drop in 2009. In short, it would not be unlikely to see a very average to below average player who plays almost every game in 2008-2009 rise to Type A status among American League shortstops. This means somebody like Jason Bartlett or Yuniesky Betancourt could be Type A, and Orlando Cabrera would almost assuredly be as well even after signing late.
So, my advice for Orlando Cabrera: If you want to avoid Type A status next offseason, sign with a National League team. Obviously, this is easier said than done, given that there aren't any openings in the senior circuit.
"Lee Smith. He retired as the all time saves leader."
I take that back...
"Orlando Cabrera is a superstar."
Monday, February 02, 2009
- Suspended/bereavement/restricted time does not count towards the DL adjustment. All of this time is ignored. In addition, players on those lists on August 31 are not included in the rankings. Notable among the bereaved players was Casey Kotchman, who was not scored in this year's rankings.
- Duplicate Names: These are a pain. Rather than use the unique ID's that are available, I opted to index the players by name, trying to manually adjust. This led to incorrect rankings for Ramon Ramirez, Tony Pena, and Edgar Gonzalez. Luckily, the Chris Youngs and Ryan Brauns didn't create any problems. I've got Macros to help identify them by middle initial. This will be solved next year.
- For whatever reason, when importing stats into Excel, I had problems with Jarrod Saltalamacchia's super long name and had to input his numbers by hand. His stats were in six different places (07 AL hitting/fielding, 08 AL hitting/fielding, 07 NL hitting/fielding) and I simply typed in his stats wrong in one of those places, throwing off his ranking.
- I've already mentioned disabled list time in a previous post, but the DL adjustment, rather than being an estimation like last year, is perfect. In addition, I've also learned that not all retroactive dates are included in the press releases. The best way to calculate DL time is to find out that a player is on the DL and then go to the game logs to find out how many days he missed.
- Relievers: I was furthest off on relievers. This is for a multitude of reasons.
- First, the incorrect DL adjustment for players over 60 days masked a lot of problems. I had assumed this was the primary reason, and with so many players, they were bound to be off.
- Second, I was using the wrong stats! I had correctly identified them and matched up the denominator in the previous rankings, but in setting up the spreadsheet, I left winning percentage included. Winning percentage is not used. This was inexcusable. For what it's worth, those who know the formula and read the Freep article probably got a good laugh, because I cited winning percentage as an area where Kyle Farnsworth could pick up Type B status. Whoops!
- Finally, for some reason I was DL adjusting the IP/H category. This led to the overrating of some relievers with around 60 days of DL time. This is how Jamie Wright ended up as high as he did. Again, this was another boneheaded mistake, but it is caught in time for next year's rankings.