Stocking Your Scout Team: Starting Pitcher

I love evaluating pitchers and could find a reason to write about any number of prospects but I’m limiting myself to a pair.  Let’s get right down to business so we can all get back to our last couple drafts in the run up to Opening Day.

Clayton Blackburn, San Francisco Giants

If I told you there was a prospect with nearly 400 innings of age-appropriate track record that included a career 9.20 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.73 walks per nine, a 2.98 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and an eventual home in a pitcher’s park with an organization known for developing pitching, you’d probably assume that prospect is highly coveted.  Yet, here we are with Clayton Blackburn, who finds himself universally behind Kyle Crick, Keury Mella, and Tyler Beede on San Francisco’s prospect rankings and also trailing Adalberto Mejia, Ty Blach, Steven Okert, and/or Luis Ysla, depending on which scout you ask.

To be fair, Blackburn’s positive attributes are mundane: he pounds the zone with above-average command and control, has clean mechanics, repeats his delivery, knows how to sequence his four-pitch mix, and has the build to profile as mid-rotation innings eater. Excited yet?

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2015 NPB Prospect Rankings, Nos. 6-15

Here I continue counting up my rankings further more. If you missed last week, here are top 5.

6) Yoshio Itoi, OF, Orix Buffaloes (Age 33)

I have no doubt that he has all the tools that would play well at the MLB level: raw power that stands out among Japanese hitters, bat-to-ball skill (he’s never had an average below .300 in 6 full seasons), speed that makes him a threat on the basepaths (has stolen at least 22 bases in each of the past 6 years) and gives him a wide range in right field ,and a cannon for an arm. He also has an advanced approach at the plate, as his career BB% stands at 10.8. With that skill set, he could be a 10-20 outfielder with a 270-280 average in MLB. The problem is that the sands of time for him are running low.

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2015 NPB Prospect Rankings, Nos. 1-5

Congratulations on surviving another off-season. We’re just over a couple of weeks away from the new season. And better yet, NPB opening day is a mere 5 days away.

Here at TDG, I ranked 30 NPB players to watch for for the coming season. The rankings are based on 1) their potential MLB upsides and age, and 2) how far away from/ how likely to be producing at the MLB level. Generally, NPB pitchers have better shots at being significant contributors than batters. In fact, there have been only 2 Japanese position players with a career bWAR of 10.0 or better, compared to 8 pitches cleared that threshold. Consequently, the list is loaded with pitchers.

Without further ado, I’m kicking off the rankings with five right-handed hurlers.

1) Kenta Maeda, RHP, Hiroshima Carp (Age 26)

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Kyle Schwarber and the Value of Catching Prospects

Much has been made about the fact that Chicago Cubs 2014 first round draft pick Kyle Schwarber might not stick behind the plate and could ultimately be moved to outfield full time. How is this going to affect the slugger’s fantasy value? Should we move him down the rankings if he is not a catcher? Is it better for us as fantasy team owners for Schwarber to remain a catcher or move to the outfield? Let’s keep in mind that there have been a lot of players who were catchers as amateurs who “failed” to remain at catcher through their minor league years. Bryce Harper, Pablo Sandoval, Joey Votto, Dale Murphy, Craig Biggio and many others began their careers as catchers and went on to stardom at other positions. The bottom line is that if a guy can hit it doesn’t matter too much what position he plays. Positional scarcity should not be a major issue when ranking prospects.

We have all heard the case for positional scarcity and how it affects a player’s fantasy value. If you have two players who both have the exact same statistics, the one who plays the rarer position is a lot more valuable. Clearly, catcher is a scarce position and there are only a small handful of legitimate hitters who wear the mask. If you are starting Buster Posey or Jonathan Lucroy at catcher then you will have a large advantage over teams starting Jason Castro or Miguel Montero.

Just How Scarce are They?

That is all true without question, but in terms of fantasy baseball that is often overblown. Continue reading

Digging for Diamonds Profile: Jose De Leon, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

As we’ve touched on before, an important aspect of maintaining a profitable dynasty league roster is utilizing your last few minor league roster spots on prospects that have a good chance to rise up the various prospect rankings in the near future. Not all prospects should necessarily be viewed as long term pieces when often times they can be picked up inexpensively and then traded to fill a more pressing need on your roster, or serve as the final piece to be added on to close a deal. Most of the time, you have to turn to the lower minors to find such prospects and that’s where we find RHP Jose De Leon of the Los Angeles Dodgers:
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Going Deep: Recap of a 20 Team Dynasty MiLB Draft (Picks 11-20)

Last week, we recapped the debacle that was taking Roberto Baldoquin over such talents as Nomar Mazara and Craig Goldstein’s adopted son, Jake Thompson. This week we will take a look at picks 11-20, also known as the back half of the first round.  Picks 1-10 and a brief rundown of the league rules are here in case you missed last week’s post. An interesting feature of this league’s draft is that MiLBers that have not appeared in a major league game are not able to be added in-season, so that leads to a larger than normal pool of available talent:

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Stocking Your Scout Team: Third Base

You know the drill by now.  I’m here to talk about prospects who will probably be undrafted in your league but who have a chance to either log productive, low-upside plate appearances in 2015 or ride some helium up prospect rankings.

Giovanny Urshela, Cleveland Indians

Urshela has been considered a glove-first prospect since signing out of Columbia in 2008 but his bat has developed nicely over the course of his minor league career.  2014 represented his biggest step forward yet, with a .280/.334/.491 triple-slash across two levels that included a career high 18 home runs. He lacks the prototypical power you look for in a third baseman but compensates for that shortcoming with bat-to-ball skills that are above-average for the position.  He’s a free swinger, evidenced by a 53.4 percent swing rate that was eighth highest in the International League among players with 300 plate appearances.  His 82.0 percent contact rate was 36th best in the league.

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