Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Response to Comment

WebSoulSurfer wrote a constructive comment about our Rule 5 selections, and rather than burying it at the bottom of the last entry, I figured I would respond with an additional post.

Comment from WebSoulSurfer:
Cabrera, like Deivi Cruz, is really a 2B, having played 171 of his 219 games in the minors at that position.

He hasn't played much at SS, only 45 games in his professional career, and hasn't looked good when he did.

In 3 games I saw the Tourists play against the Del Marva Shorebirds and the Charleston Riverdogs, he started one game at SS and looked lost. One throwing error and another play that should have been called an error. Yes, 3 games and just one at SS is a small sample size, but from the people that follow the Sally League and the Tourists in particular, I got that it is typical of what little time he gets at SS.

On the bright side he did steal 4 bases in the 3 games.

Maybe he will do better than Travis Denker, EGon, and Matt Antonelli to win the 2B position in Spring Training, but from what I saw and from what I was told by those who watched him play daily, he is not a SS.His .946 FP and his 9 throwing errors of 11 total errors in just 45 games at the SS position seem to bear that out as well.

And now you have a 25 man roster slot filled by someone, 2 someones actually, who have very little shot at making the team. Kind of ties your hands if you want to make trades, doesn't it?I just don't understand either of the Rule V pick ups and nothing you have said makes it any clearer why you picked these two.

It's not unusual for young middle infielders to play both 2B and SS at times. As an example, when Furcal was Cabrera's age he had played 114 games at 2B and 117 at SS (and his fielding percentage at SS was .932 - below Cabrera's) in his career. The next year he was the starting SS in Atlanta.

Sometimes playing both 2B and SS is for developmental reasons (most kids break in needing to be able to play multiple positions) and other times it's due to the presence of other players. In this case the Rockies had a young, 19 year old SS on Cabrera's team both last year and this year who was their 5th round pick in 2006. This happens more often than you might think.

In fact, it's happening right now in our system. Jorge Minyeti has been playing mainly 2B in the Dominican Republic, but we all believe he could play SS if needed. He's playing primarily 2B because Jonathan Galvez is getting most of the time at SS. In our system next year we'll have some similar decisions to make with guys like Drew Cumberland, Cole Figueroa, Beamer Weems, Lance Zawadski, Jesus Lopez, and Jeudy Valdez - every one of whom we believe has the ability to play SS.

Our scouts, including one who has seen Everth since he was an amateur in Nicaragua, believe that he has the tools to play SS, but he certainly needs more experience. Young infielders generally make errors - lots of them. I remember when I first got to Oakland, the knock on Eric Chavez was that he wasn't going to be able to stick at 3B. His BEST fielding percentage in the minors was .935, and he had made more than 50 errors in fewer than 250 minor league games. He won his first Gold Glove at the age of 23. The point is that if the player has the tools and athleticism to handle a position, they typically get much better with experience.

I'm not saying that we expect Everth to win a Gold Glove at SS, but this gets to your second question - why would we pick these guys? We picked them not solely because of what they are today, but also because of what we believe they can become.

In past years we've taken Rule 5 guys who can play a particular position or fill a certain role even though that's likely all they might ever do at the ML level. The good news is that our minor league system is now providing us with those players. This afforded us an opportunity in this year's draft, an opportunity to take a chance (or two) on players who have a higher ceiling in the future while filling a role today.

In the immediate term, Cabrera can play at least three positions (2B, SS, and CF), has impact speed, and is an excellent bunter. Most National League managers would love to have that guy available to them. Nova is a solid strikethrower, has a fastball that averages around 92-93 and flashes above average secondary pitches. Most teams won't do much better than that with the 12th pitcher on their staff.

In the longer term, Cabrera could be a leadoff-hitting middle-of-the-diamond defender with impact speed, and Nova could be a middle of the rotation starter with plus stuff. Will either player fulfill that promise? Very simply, we don't know. I wish we were that good. However, their ability to fill a role now while also projecting to more significant roles down the line made them worth the selections.

Now, of course, they actually need to make the team. We'll see how that goes come February and March, as neither one is assured of a spot.

PS The allure of Deivi Cruz was that he was an excellent defender at SS regularly posting above average fielding percentages and range factors. He played 1124 ML games at SS and just 51 at 2B.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rule V Draft

We just completed the Major League phase of the Rule V draft, so I wanted to give a brief overview of the players we selected. It's probably not what you've come to expect of the Padres.

In the first round with the third overall pick, we selected shortstop Everth Cabrera from the Rockies. Everth played in Asheville in 2008, Colorado's A-ball affiliate. A high energy player, the 5'9" shortstop can absolutely fly - 73 bases in 89 attempts this year. A legitimate leadoff hitter with some power to go along with the speed, Everth has a lot of upside potential.

The easy comparable to throw around due to the size, position, and speed is Rafael Furcal (though Everth does not have Furcal's plus, plus arm). Now, Furcal's a great Major League player, and Everth hasn't played above A ball. That said, when Furcal was Everth's age (season played at 21) he split the year between A and high-A hitting .322/.392/.389 and stealing 96 bases in 126 attempts. Everth hit .284/.361/.399 (less average but more power and more efficient stealing bases). The next year Furcal was the starting SS for the Braves. It's fun to dream.

In the second round we selected RHP Ivan Nova from the Yankees. Consistently rated as one of the Yankees top 20 prospects, the 6'4" right-hander spent the 2008 season pitching for Tampa in the high-A Florida State League as a 21-year old. Our scouting reports indicate that Ivan has a 90-95 mph fastball and shows a plus curveball and a plus changeup. As with most young pitchers, the key is consistency, but the stuff is definitely there. We believe he has big league starter potential in the long run.

As I stated at the beginning, this is a different look for the Padres. We didn't take a semi-polished AAA reliever or a guy who could potentially just fill a role, we decided to take a couple of shots on guys with big upside who could truly impact our organization. As with all young players, Rule V picks in particular, patience is absolutely critical. We can't expect either Cabrera or Nova to tear up the Major Leagues in 2009 - neither has even played one game in AA yet. However, these guys have skills (explosive speed at a premium defensive position and a power arm) that could make them key players in the future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Happens in Vegas...

It's Sunday afternoon, and much of the baseball industry has descended upon Las Vegas for the annual Winter Meetings. I'm actually still home, as the idea of flying INTO Vegas on a Sunday night just seemed unnatural.

I attended my first Winter Meetings in 1995 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. At that time the Major League Clubs didn't attend the meetings, so it was really just for the minor league organizations, and I was there for the annual job fair. You see, I was an unpaid intern for the Baltimore Stallions in the Canadian Football League, and the team was moving to Montreal. So, my fellow interns (six of us, if I remember correctly) and I flew out to LA and occupied exactly one hotel room in the neary Holiday Inn in the hopes of landing a job in baseball.

I'll never forget those meetings or the people who were kind enough to spend time with me there, like Pat Filippone, Andy Berg, Bill Ianniciello (the only Major League person willing to talk to me), Hank Stickney, and others. It was a wild few days.

In the winter of 1998 the big league Clubs rejoined the fray, and those meetings marked my first official days with the Oakland A's. Since that time the meetings have been equally as wild for me, but in a very different way. Now I spend virtually all of my time holed up in a room helping to evaluate all sorts of options and ideas. It's an intense time and probably the most unhealthy stretch of the year - no fresh air, very little sleep, lots of room service, and an emotional rollercoaster. It's the best.

I'm going first thing in the morning.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Khalil to St. Louis

I wish I could have written something on this earlier in the day, but we always have to wait for the moves to be official before commenting on them. Nevertheless, late last night we agreed to trade Khalil Greene to the Cardinals for RHP Mark Worrell and a player to be named later.

First and foremost, Khalil created a lot of great memories here in San Diego. The first round pick of the Padres in 2002, Khalil quickly made his way through the minor league system and made his Major League debut at the end of 2003, never to return to the minors. In addition to stellar defensive play at shortstop, Khalil's five full seasons here resulted in 82 homers and more than 300 rbi. The Cardinals got a good player, and I would guess he's going to have a very nice year for them.

For the Padres, we bring back RHP Mark Worrell and a PTBNL. A 2004 draft out of Florida International, Mark has spent the past two seasons at AAA Memphis: 126 ip, 103 h, 56 bb, and 146 k's. Mark is a sidearmer with some funk to his delivery, but he'll still run it up to 92 mph and typically pitches around 89-90. Despite his sidearming delivery, Mark has been very tough on both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters, and we think he has a good chance to contribute to our Major League bullpen in 2009 and beyond. He is currently protected on the 40-man roster and has options remaining.

As you probably know, I can't discuss the PTBNL. I will say that as we've done in the past, we have a few options to choose from, and we will take our time deciding in order to make the best possible decision.

In all candor, the other part of this deal is the trade of Khalil's contract which was due to pay him $6.5 million in 2009. There are times when we have to make tough choices, and unfortunately finances do play a role. The Padres certainly aren't alone in that reality. Fortunately for us, this move provides us some flexibility in our other dealings, which could be very helpful going forward through this winter and provides us some more definition as we approach next week's Winter Meetings.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Offering Arbitration

This story has been heavily reported in the past few days, more so than I can ever remember, but last night was the deadline for offering arbitration to your own free agents. The result was a total of 24 offers across the industry.

Once upon a time, actually up until just a few years ago, if a Club failed to offer arbitration to one of their free agents then they could basically no longer negotiate with that player. He was essentially cut off from returning. Therefore, this was actually a huge deadline, and you'd often see many deals get done at the 11th hour. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, this is no longer the case. Players who did not receive the offer may still sign with their old organizations.

With the new system, the offer of arbitration has just two components: 1) if the player accepts he is deemed a "signed" player, immediately returns to the 40-man roster, and enters into the arbitration process just as a younger player would, and 2) if the player rejects the offer, is a Type A or Type B free agent, and signs with another Club, then the original Club receives some sort of draft pick compensation. So, basically, Clubs will offer arbitration only if they want draft pick compensation or would be happy with a one year deal that the arbitration process would create (or both, really - they want draft picks but would also be happy with the one year deal).

At the Padres we had one ranked free agent, Trevor Hoffman, and we declined to offer him arbitration. Therefore, we will not receive draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.

What yesterday's events also mean for the Padres is that the 2009 Rule IV draft has begun to take shape. We have the #3 pick overall in the amateur draft next summer, and now our second round pick will be no deeper than the mid-50's. If a number of players who were offered arbitration accept the offer or re-sign with their current clubs, our second round pick could end up somewhere in the 40's, which has been the area of many compensation picks in past years.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these 24 players react (they have until Sunday to accept or reject), as this is the most undeveloped market I can remember.