Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Day After

Waking up today made yesterday's events even more surreal.

The two most notable deadlines in baseball, the trading deadline and the signing deadline, produce a lot of action, and typically there is a flurry of activity in the final 20 minutes. Of course, there needs to be a foundation of communication for those final 20 minutes to be worthwhile, which we had established with all of our remaining draftees.

With about 20 minutes to go we received word that AJ Vanegas had decided to attend Stanford. This was a disappointment, especially since we thought so highly of him and his family, but we understood his desire to fulfill that dream. We knew it was a longshot from the beginning, but we still tried to make a compelling case. Our signing bonus offer would have placed AJ among the top ten picks in the country, but that didn't sway his decision. It was clearly never about the money for AJ, and that is admirable.

With about eight minutes to go until the deadline, we heard from John Barbato, our 6th round selection, and within a minute had agreed on a deal that would pay him 1st round money to pass on his commitment to the University of Florida. This was a big and unexpected win. It was expensive, but we feel as though we got a top round talent.

As for Karsten Whitson? I don't think anyone is happy this morning - not the player, not the agent, not the team, and not the fans. With that being the case, it's justified to question how we ended up there.

We had every reason to believe that he would be signing within a few days of the draft (and I mean every reason). Then other people got involved and slowed the process down. Nevertheless, we were still confident that we would get a deal done, especially due to all of the conversations that had taken place before the draft. Once it continued to drag on, we knew that the deadline was the only way that it was going to happen.

When the deadline approached, despite feeling somewhat taken advantage of, we did what every team does in order to get a deal done: we improved our offer to the last dollar. At the end of the day, it was an over slot offer that would have placed Karsten just behind the 8th pick in the country and comfortably ahead of the 10th. However, Karsten did not do what every single other first rounder (who didn't have an issue with their physical) did do: agree to a deal.

At 11:59 eastern time last night, we had over $5 million of offers on the table to three high school players, and they all turned down the money, two of them due to a strong commitment to school. We even had two offers to high school right-handers that would have paid them both like top ten picks in the country! Surreal indeed.

The good news is that, despite having a winning Major League team, we'll have a top pick in next year's draft as compensation, and the industry believes that the 2011 draft class will be much stronger. Also, as in Major League free agency, when someone doesn't take your money, you find another player or basket of players to acquire with that money. A straightforward example is when the Nationals were unable to sign Aaron Crow a few years ago with the 9th overall pick and then the following year took Drew Storen as compensation. Crow is now in A ball with a 5.40 era, while Storen is in the big leagues with a 2.61. So, we didn't sign Whitson, Vanegas, and Dwyer, but now we'll be able to put that money toward other investments either in the draft, internationally, or at the big league level.

Hey, given our organization's track record in the first round, maybe it was time to take a year off!

Seriously, at the end of the day, we were unexpectedly able to sign a handful of players in the 2010 draft in over slot deals, including Cates, Barbato, and Dore. We can also be opportunistic going forward since we expected to spend a lot more money yesterday. Lastly, it doesn't change the fact that from 2007-2009 only the Yankees and Red Sox spent more on amateur players than we did. We planned for that trend to continue in 2010, and we'll plan for it again in 2011.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Signing Deadline

Midnight eastern tonight is the MLB signing deadline for drafted players, so it'll be an active day on the transaction wire.

For our part, last week we were able to come to agreements with two picks: 3rd round RHP Zach Cates and 8th round OF Jose Dore. Both were signed for well above slot money, but we expected that on draft day when we selected them. Nevertheless, it's good to have them signed and in the organization.

We're still working on a handful of other players, including 1st round RHP Karsten Whitson, 6th round RHP John Barbato, 7th round RHP AJ Vanegas, and 15th round OF/1B Sean Dwyer. While we're hopeful to sign these guys, signing more than one of them would be an incredible outcome for us. Whitson, like most of the top half of the first round, has elected to wait until today to make a decision, and the other three were all expecting significant dollars to pass on college, which is the only reason they were available when we took them. Their talent dictated much higher positioning in the draft.

We'll see what tonight brings, but we're not expecting much until the final hour before the deadline.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two Items

Two quick hits for today:
  • If you're wondering about the August waiver rules, and you know you are, I wrote this piece two years ago to help explain the process.
  • Ever wonder why hitters can't seem to hit Mariano Rivera even when they know what's coming? Here's an interesting video that attempts to explain the phenomenon.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Acquiring Tejada and Ludwick

Most teams approach July's trading deadline with the following plan: let's add meaningfully to our Major League team without trading any member of the Major League team and also holding onto our top prospects. Typically, that's easier said than done, and this deadline had an added degree of difficulty due to the dearth of impact players available.

All of that made acquiring both Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick all the more exciting for us.

Fortunately, our team performance over the course of the first four months not only put us in a position to add at the deadline, but also exposed some of our needs. While our offense has been better than many expected, it could still be better. Owing to our defense and our pitching, we don't necessarily have the need to score five or more runs per game in order to win consistently. To that point, incredibly we're 12-11 when scoring just three runs, and we're actually a pretty good 9-17 when scoring either one or two runs. Much to our frustration, we still haven't figured out how to win when we don't score... we're 0-5 when that happens.

While those results speak volumes about our pitching and defense, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that while the results haven't been as bad as most teams in those situations, all of those games add up to 52% of our contests. The good news? We're 41-9 when we score at least four runs.

Note to self: score at least four runs more often.

In attacking that problem, we had to notice that we've been much more efficient against LHP this year than RHP. Without even adjusting for our ballparks, we rank 6th in the National League against LHP, so we're an above average offense even before the adjustments. Against RHP, though, we're 11th before adjusting for the parks, which probably makes us close to average. (True, I'm not divulging the statistic we're using for these rankings, so you're just going to have to trust me.)

While the more obvious solution would have been to acquire LHH's, both Tejada and Ludwick have had much success against RHP, and they have the added benefit of providing our lineup a little more balance. This should make it tougher to match up against us and make us less vulnerable to any particular starting pitcher. Yes, both Tejada and Ludwick are decorated veteran hitters with playoff experience, but they also are versatile defensively, play positions of need, and have repeatedly been called some of the best teammates in the game. To acquire one would have fired us up, but to get both...

Now, nothing comes for free, and we did have to part with some solid prospects to make this happen. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see both Corey Kluber and Wynn Pelzer pitching in the big leagues as soon as 2011. However, I have two thoughts on that. First, I'm proud of our scouting department and player development staff for finding and developing guys in the 4th and 9th rounds in 2007 that could make this type of contribution to our organization. Second, I hope that every year we're forced to pay such a price to further a pennant run. Sign me up.

Often times the trading deadline appears to be a no-win situation. If you don't do enough to help your team, it can actually hurt the psychology of the team. If you tinker too much, people also get upset. Bottom line: if you don't get into October, some people will inevitably point to what you did or didn't do at the deadline and find culpability. We, however, prefer to judge decisions in the time and under the circumstances in which they were made. Under that criteria, we're thrilled with the additions and look forward to watching this team down the stretch.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interleague Success

Well, it's been a while since we've been able to write that...eleven long years to be exact.

1997: 8-8
1998: 6-7
1999: 11-4

Hey, this interleague thing isn't so bad.

2000: 5-10
2001: 6-9
2002: 8-10
2003: 8-10
2004: 8-10
2005: 7-11
2006: 7-8
2007: 6-9
2008: 3-15 ouch
2009: 5-10

Yes, the last time we finished with a winning record in interleague play was actually 1999, and the last decade had produced a painful 63-102 record for us against the American League. 2002-2007 wasn't so bad, but it had gotten ugly the past couple of years. This year, therefore, we're more than happy to take the 9-6 tally and the four series wins.

There are a lot of theories about why the National League, in general, has struggled against the American League over the years - the dedicated roster spot for the DH, some higher payrolls, just more talent overall. We don't necessarily know the answer, but we do know we're pleased to buck the trend.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Signings

Here are a few more signings for today:

#5 Rico Noel
#11 Brian Guinn
#19 Tyler Norwood
#29 Mykal Stokes
#31 Oscar Garcia
#37 Chase Marona
#41 Bryan Altman
#43 Mark Hardy

A number of these guys (Stokes, Garcia, Marona, and Altman) have already seen action with either Eugene or Arizona, as both teams began their seasons. With Noel and Guinn signed, we now have our top five college (including JC) position players signed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Video for Rounds 11-20

Here's a little more video on some of our guys.

The Short-Season A Eugene Emeralds opens tonight! Check out the roster here. In addition to the 2010 draftees, we have a number of young talented players trying to make the jump, including pitchers Keyvius Sampson, Adys Portillo, Matt Lollis, and Pedro Martinez and outfielders Luis Domoromo and Rymer Liriano. The Arizona League Padres will start play on Monday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Signing Update

Today we announced that we've come to agreements with 20 of our drafted players. It's good to have two of the top four (our top two position players) already in the fold. We're also close on a few others that could be done before the opening of the short season this weekend, so I'll post those as they become official.

Signings include:

#2 Jedd Gyorko
#4 Christian Bisson
#10 Houston Slemp
#12 Chris Franklin
#17 Wes Cunningham
#18 Dan Meeley
#20 Paul Bingham
#21 Connor Powers
#22 Tyler Stubblefield
#24 Rocky Gale
#27 Matthew Branham
#33 Daniel Ottone
#34 Xavier Esquivel
#36 Rob Gariano
#38 Noah Mull
#39 Adam Schrader
#40 Justin Echevarria
#42 Cole Tyrell
#44 Robert Sabo
#50 Gunnar Terhune

We're well aware that many other conversations will take a while, and some will not result in agreements, but we're very happy with where we are just one week post-draft.

Video for Rounds 6-10

This video includes RHP John Barbato, RHP AJ Vanegas, OF Jose Dore, and OF Houston Slemp. 9th Round pick Josh Spence from Arizona State didn't really pitch this spring due to an elbow injury, so there's no video of him.

As you many be able to tell, Barbato, Vanegas, and Dore were all considered to be talented enough to go in the first few rounds of the draft, but they slipped a bit in the draft due to signability concerns.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Video for Rounds 3-5

Zac Cates

Christian Bisson

Jablonski (Rico) Noel

Monday, June 14, 2010

Putting a Face to a Name

We have video!

Over the course of the next week or two, I'll be posting video on some of our draftees. These are not professionally edited highlights. Rather, they are sample clips taken by our scouts, which I thought we'd share. Because of that, some players will definitely have more than others, though it won't necessarily correlate with where they were taken in the draft. Enjoy!

Today's installment: Karsten Whitson and Jedd Gyorko.

Karsten Whitson

Jedd Gyorko

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rounds 31-50

If I don't do it now, I'm not sure when I will.

Round 31
Oscar Garcia is a junior centerfielder from Northwestern State. He's a very good fundamental player who does all the little things well. While his slash line of .375/.469/.526 is impressive, it's his 41 to 12 walk to strikeout ratio that is truly unusual. He had just 12 strikeouts in about 275 plate appearances.

Round 32
William Scott from Walters State began our run of pitchers. A right-handed starter who is a converted outfielder, William's fastball is up to 92 mph. He also throws both a curveball and a slider, but his changeup might be his most advanced secondary pitch as of right now. He's committed to Kennesaw St.

Round 33
Daniel Ottone is a 6'4" right-hander from Western Carolina who worked out of the bullpen the last two seasons. Daniel generates a lot of groundballs with his fastball that runs between 91 and 94 mph.

Round 34
A four-year reliever and spot starter for Loyola Marymount, Xavier Esquivel has a fastball that will bump 92 mph. He'll also mix in a good curveball and changeup. A bulldog on the mound, Xavier has an aggressive approach that we like.

Round 35
Michael Ellis is a right-hander from Fleetwood Park Secondary School in British Columbia. Still just 17, he has a projectable 6'2" frame and has been pitching for the Canadian National Team. Despite his youth, he has a good feel for pitching, as he can change speeds and move the ball around the zone.

Round 36
Rob Gariano is a senior right-hander from Fairfield University. A starter throughout his college career, Rob also pitched as a starter and reliever in the Cape Cod League last summer where he struck out 31 and walked six over 26 innings of work. A great competitor, Rob has good command of three pitches and a fastball that normally goes between 89-93 mph.

Round 37
Allen Marona is a junior college pitcher from Northwest Shoals in Alabama. A converted SS who is new to pitching, Allen struck out 69 hitters in 39 innings this season with a fastball that will touch 93 mph.

Round 38
Noah Mull is a senior left-hander from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. This year he struck out 81 hitters in just 56 innings, but what also intrigues us is his ability to drop down and throw sidearm. Nothing like a little bit of funk in the 38th round to keep you going.

Round 39
Adam Schrader is a senior right-hander from Southwest Minnesota State. Adam is a good strikethrower, and his 6'3" frame is very projectable.

Round 40
Back to position players! Justin Echevarria is a senior catcher from SUNY Stony Brook. An experienced receiver, Justin has thrown out more than 40% of attempted basestealers over the course of his past three seasons.

Round 41
Bryan Altman is a senior infielder from the Citadel who has also spent some time behind the dish. Over the past two seasons, Bryan has hit 20 homers and 38 doubles in just under 500 at-bats.

Round 42
Cole Tyrell is another senior infielder who has seen some time at catcher in the past and could see more in the future. At the University of Dayton this year he hit .326/.392/.558.

Round 43
Mark Hardy is a senior left-hander from the University of British Columbia. At 6'4" Mark has good downhill plane to his pitches and generates lots of groundballs. His delivery also creates some deception, so he could be a tough at-bat for left-handed hitters.

Round 44
A redshirt junior, Robert is a right-handed starter for Kent State. Now two years removed from labrum surgery, Robert works very quickly and sets a great tempo for the game by attacking the strike zone with all three of his pitches.

Round 45
Michael Fagan is a left-hander from the San Diego Jewish Academy who has set all kinds of strikeout records in high school. This year he punched out 103 in just 46 innings and has close to 500 for his high school career. He's currently committed to Princeton.

Round 46
Dominick Francia is a centerfielder from St. Paul's Episcopal HS in Alabama. A left/left player, Dom has very good speed and instincts for the game, which helped him go 25 for 25 in stolen bases this season. He's currently committed to Louisiana Lafayette.

Round 47
Kraig Kelley is a third baseman from Collinsville HS in Oklahoma whom we listed as a catcher. A good athlete who is also a quarterback, Kraig's arm strength is plus, and at just 17 years old, he's younger than most draftees.

Round 48
Daniel Child is a right-handed starter from Jesuit HS in Northern California. At 6'5" and 235lbs, he has an XXL frame for a 17 year old. Daniel's primary pitch is a hard sinker that will touch as high as 94 mph. He's currently committed to Oregon State.

Round 49
Elliot Glynn is a junior left-handed starter from the University of Connecticut. A crafty lefty, Elliot uses his sinker to generate a lot of grounders. Last summer on the Cape he posted a 2.02 ERA in 40 innings of work.

Round 50
And then there was one. Gunnar Terhune is a senior centerfielder from UC Santa Barbara, but he's a product of St. Augustine HS here in San Diego. A versatile defender, Gunnar also stole 17 bags this year for the Gauchos.

Exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.

This draft was truly a potpourri. We drafted some big-time high school arms, middle of the diamond speed players, some athletic junior college arms with upside, a few polished bats... a little bit of something for everyone. Now it's time to get them signed and get them out to either Eugene or Arizona to start their professional careers as Padres.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rounds 21-30

It was a long day - it feels like we got Karsten Whitson a week ago...

Round 21
Connor Powers is a senior first baseman from Mississippi St with big power. Over the past two seasons he's hit 35 homers in 110 games while playing in possibly the toughest conference in college baseball. At 6'3" and 240lbs he's also an intimidating presence in the box.

Round 22
Tyler Stubblefield is a senior infielder from Kennesaw State in Georgia. A versatile infielder and an efficient basestealer, Tyler was 20 for 20 in stolen bases this spring while also hitting nine homers.

Round 23
Xorge Carrillo is a junior catcher from Arizona State who has been drafted on two other occasions. Originally from Tijuana, Xorge attended Central Arizona for two seasons, where he caught our 9th round pick Josh Spence, before transferring to ASU. A very solid receiver, Xorge should help the development of our young pitchers.

Round 24
It's a run on catchers! Rocky Gale is a senior catcher from the University of Portland. Rocky led the Pilots this year with a .347 average, but more impressively, he threw out 18 of 23 runners attempting to steal. 18 of 23.

Round 25
Josue Montanez is an 18 year old left-handed pitcher from Ramon Vila Mayo HS in Puerto Rico. With a projectable 6'2" frame, Josue works primarily with a fastball and a curveball.

Round 26
Cory Hahn is a centerfielder and left-handed starter for Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana. A good athlete, Cory is a good defender who runs well, has some surprising power, and is a good strikethrower as a pitcher. At this point he's committed to Arizona State.

Round 27
Matt Branham is a senior right-hander from the University of South Carolina Upstate. At 6'4" and up to 92 mph, Matt has struck out more than one hitter per inning over the past two seasons while throwing lots of strikes.

Round 28
Joe Almaraz is an 18 year old 3B from Lady Bird Johnson HS in Texas. A left-handed hitter, Joe hit .390 this season while also showing the tools to play good defense at 3B. An instinctual player, he has an advanced feel for the game.

Round 29
Mykal Stokes is an outfielder for Orange Coast College. A graceful athlete, Mykal is a good defender in the outfield who also has some easy power.

Round 30
Donald Snelten is a 6'6" left-hander from Lake Community HS outside of Chicago. Very projectable and just 17 years old, Donald has a fastball that runs up to 90 mph, good spin on his breaking ball and some feel for a changeup. That mix helped him strike out 64 hitters in just 36 innings. He's committed to the University of Minnesota.

Another 20 rounds tomorrow, but we're feeling good about where we are at this point. We received some really pleasant surprises in the early rounds, and we went after some very high ceiling players a little later. This was our strategy at the outset, but it worked out as well or better than we could have anticipated.

Rounds 11-20

Deep breath...

Round 11
Brian Guinn is an athletic infielder from UC Berkeley. A switch-hitter and two-year starter at Berkeley, he's more of a slasher at the plate with a chance to disrupt the defense. He also played in the Cape last summer.

Round 12
Chris Franklin is a senior right-hander from Southeastern Louisiana who also plays 3B. We see him as a pitcher, however, with a good fastball up to 93mph and the makings of a tough slider. In college he's been the type to play most of the game at 3B and then take the mound as a reliever, so it'll be interesting to see what he can do when focusing just on pitching.

Round 13
Miguel Pena is a 19 year old left-handed starter from San Jacinto JC in Texas. A good strikethrower he has a solid fastball up to 91 mph and a changeup, but his curveball is his money pitch. He was drafted in the 5th round by Washington last year out of high school but elected to attend JC and re-enter the draft.

Round 14
Tommy Medica was a catcher at Santa Clara University before a separated shoulder in a home plate collision forced him out of the position. A former Team USA catcher, he's an advanced bat with strength who can do damage.

Round 15
Sean Dwyer is a left-handed high school outfielder and first baseman with an advanced feel for hitting. A great worker who is mature beyond his years, Sean is already stronger and more polished than most high school hitters. On ability alone he would have gone much higher in the draft, but he is currently committed to attend Florida Gulf Coast.

Round 16
Connor Hofmann is a left-handed hitting centerfielder from our backyard - St. Augustine HS here in San Diego. A plus, plus runner and excellent athlete, Connor is committed to the University of Oregon.

Round 17
Wes Cunningham is a senior first baseman and outfielder from Murray State. In his three years as an everyday player he hit .380, .411, and .408, and during the same stretch went from hitting two home runs to hitting 22.

Round 18
Daniel Meeley is a 20 year old outfielder from Connors State in Oklahoma. A good bat, Daniel hit .443 this year with 21 homers. He's committed to Oklahoma University.

Round 19
Tyler Norwood is a 6'4" 19 year old right-hander from Southern Union CC in AL. He only spent minimal time on the mound in high school, but his velocity has continued to climb as he has been pitching. This year he showed a fastball up to 93 and the makings of a good slider and changeup.

Round 20
Paul Bingham is a senior infielder from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Despite being 6'2" and 200 lbs, he is a plus, plus runner. That impact speed led to 42 stolen bases this year in just 47 games.

Rounds are going quickly now. I'll try to post rounds 21-30 at some point before the end of the night.

Rounds 6-10

It was time for some upside! Most of these guys could be difficult to sign, as their talent dictates a higher round selection, but we felt that it was the right time to take them.

6th Round
John Barbato is a 6'3" RHP from Varela HS in Florida. The coach's son, John's fastball has touched 95 mph and normally works around 92. He complements it with a tough downer curveball and a good changeup. He has the arm speed, delivery, and repertoire of a starter. Currently, he has a strong commitment to the University of Florida, but we'll see what happens.

7th Round
AJ Vanegas is a 6'3" RHP from Redwood Christian HS in Northern California. An AFLAC All-American, AJ has top of the rotation stuff with a fastball up to 96 mph, two solid to plus breaking balls and a feel for the changeup. AJ hasn't been on many mock drafts due to his commitment to Stanford, but he's definitely a first round talent.

8th Round
A 6'1" outfielder, Jose Dore led the state of Florida in homers as a junior. A hamstring injury this spring slowed him, but that didn't hide his multiple tools. A solid defender and runner, he's not just a power bat. He's currently committed to Florida State.

9th Round
Maybe the third time is a charm for Josh Spence. A LHP from Australia, Josh was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 25th round out of Central Arizona in 2008 and then again by the Los Angeles Angels in the 3rd round out or Arizona State in 2009. After returning to ASU, he missed his spring season with an elbow injury. When healthy, he can really pitch with a great feel for changing speeds and frustrating hitters.

10th Round
A left-handed hitting centerfielder out of Eastern Oklahoma JC, Houston Slemp has the chance to incorporate both speed and power into his game. Houston was an all-state football and baseball player in high school before starting his college baseball career at Arkansas.

Jablonski (Rico) Noel

Bisson is really fast. Noel might be faster.

Rico is the CF for Coastal Carolina, and in his past 125 college games, he has stolen 104 bases. That's silly. Possibly more importantly, we think he's the best defensive centerfielder in the entire draft and is a perfect fit for PETCO.

A right-handed hitter, Rico is another guy we think has great makeup. With Gyorko, Bisson, and Noel, we have some small strike zones!

Christian Bisson

A junior second baseman from the University of Kentucky (and originally from Ontario), Chris is a player with exciting speed. Combining last summer on the Cape and this spring in the SEC, Chris has stolen 68 bases in 93 games. Wiry strong, he also has some strength and will get his share of extra base hits.

Another player with great makeup, he's absolutely driven to succeed. After not playing much as a freshman at Kentucky, he became the first UK player since 2000 to earn back-to-back All SEC honors.

Zach Cates

We love pleasant surprises!

Zach Cates is a newly converted pitcher from Northeast Texas CC. A former catcher, the 6'3", 200lb right-hander has a fastball than runs 90-95 to go along with a nasty changeup. Just 20 years old, this spring was Zach's first full season to concentrate on pitching, and he struck out 92 in just 69 innings.

We feel he has the chance to be a starter and should continue to develop as he spends more time on the mound.

Jedd Gyorko

We got ourselves a bat.

Jedd is a junior shortstop from West Virginia University who has done nothing but rake for three years. At 5'10" and 195lbs, Jedd is a strong infielder with right-handed power. This year he had 48 extra base hits in just 236 at-bats while only striking out just 24 times. Furthermore, last summer he hit .326/.386/.488 with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League.

A driven, hard-nosed player, Jedd is the type of grinder with the makeup to will himself to the Major Leagues. We were hoping all night that he might still be there when we picked today, as we feel he's one of the more polished bats in the draft.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Karsten Whitson

Sometimes you have to take your shot.

Karsten is a 6'4", 215lb right-hander from Chipley, FL with a fastball that runs between 90 and 95 mph. His main secondary pitch is a relatively polished slider that has been unhittable at the amateur level. While he has shown some feel for a changeup, he just hasn't needed to use it much up to this point, but we anticipate that he'll have a solid one going forward. A great competitor, Karsten pitches with an attitude, and I mean that in the best way possible.

As this year's big league team illustrates, we're going to win here in PETCO with great pitching, and we feel Karsten has the chance to pitch at the top of a rotation. Like any high schooler, it is going to take a while for him to develop fully, and we'll have a defined plan to increase his workload over the years to prepare him for the rigors of an ML season.

This pick doesn't come without risk, but that goes for any amateur player. In this instance, though, we have the chance to develop a dominant starting pitcher.

Now it's time to sit back and watch the next 40 picks and continue to strategize for tomorrow.

Draft Day!

There's just nothing like waking up on draft day.

In the past the draft lasted two days, and it was akin to an 800 meter race - an absolute sprint but realistically too long to sprint without nearly collapsing before the end (at least for me). There was no time allotted for each pick, so when the team in front of you finished announcing their selection, it was immediately time for you to announce yours. Even a 15 second pause was an indication that a team had just been plucked - losing their intended selection just before they picked. This pace lasted for two straight days, and it was frenetic.

Over the years the format of the draft has continued to change. The first change was allowing a full minute in between picks in the first round or two. It doesn't sound like much, but to those of us who were accustomed to the sprint, it was excruciatingly slow. In the last year or two we went to five minutes for each first round pick, and then a minute or two for the next couple of rounds before the rapid fire. Five minutes is an eternity in a draft room.

The biggest changes, though, have been to the schedule. Last year we did just the first two rounds on the first day, as compared to roughly 20 rounds in the past. This year? Just Round Round One (including the compensation round). That means that all of the teams will be working through the night to reload for the faster pace tomorrow.

This new schedule has some strategic implications, as it gives teams, especially those with multiple picks, the time to assess where they are and where they want to go. In the past, teams attempted to run through all of those possible scenarios in the week leading up to the draft to the point of exhaustion. When you have close to 900 players on your draft board, the possibilities are simply too numerous to model, but you can do your best to narrow it down. Tonight all of us will have a better opportunity to streamline our strategy once the top 50 players are off the board.

For my part, I'll do my best to blog live from our room as we're making selections. As we get deeper into tomorrow, I'll have to start grouping the selections and providing some information during our breaks, which come approximately every ten rounds. Keep the questions coming, and I'll get to them over the next few days.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Article

I normally don't provide a lot of links (I know I should provide more), but I just came across an article about Jon Garland from Marc Normandin of BP that is worth sharing.

While the article is specifically about Garland, it actually is a good commentary on our pitching in general. What's particularly astute is that Marc points out that while Garland's ERA will likely rise, his SIERA (BP's advanced pitching metric) may actually continue to go down. Regardless, his value is real.

This is an individual example that is similar to the team examples I posted yesterday. The general theme? Our guys are having a lot of success, and while luck is always a significant factor especially over such an abbreviated time frame, there are some underlying reasons for the success to date.

After posting this, I saw another article about Jon Garland on FanGraphs. It's like dueling banjos!

The different perspectives are legitimate, but the most interesting part is that both articles share a common takeaway.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

At the Quarter Mark... Well, Almost

I had been planning on writing a season-to-date review at some point. My first thought was 20 games, but I figured that was too small a sample. Then I thought maybe it would be better after 1/5th of the season, but it seemed odd to try to split the season into quintiles, and I was swamped with work anyway. Conclusion? The quarter mark...until I realized that I'll be traveling on the day after our 40th game. So, here's a quick quarter review after the first 39 games. 40 isn't even a perfect quarter anyway.

The team currently sits atop the NL West with a record of 23-16. Better than that, though, is that we seem to deserve the distinction. According to Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings, our record ought to be either 23-16 or 24-15, and they measure it three different ways - actual runs scored versus runs against, equivalent runs scored versus runs against, and adjusted equivalent runs and runs against. All of that dovetails with our actual +41 run differential so far this season.

In contrast, last season we had two decent months - May and August - in which we finished right around .500. However, in each of those months we had a negative run differential. That happens to everyone - sometimes there are a bad couple of games in there that can skew the month - so it's not necessarily a death knell, but it doesn't provide a warm and fuzzy feeling. On the other hand, we may only be 8-8 so far in May, but we have a +12 run differential for the month. I'd rather have a better record, but if we're going to be .500 over a stretch, this is the kind of short-term .500 I prefer.

Part of the reason for our internal optimism throughout the winter and spring was that in contrast with the first five months of the season, in September/October last year we went 18-11 with a run differential of +17. That +17 made the 18-11 more real, so it's great to see the team build on that through the first month and a half of this season. I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point it becomes a trend.

There are a number of other ways to evaluate this season to date that could provide either comfort or caution. The good news, again, is that most of these evaluations provide comfort. For instance, if you want to win the division, you generally need to play well within the division. After all, it accounts for 72 of the 162 games, and a win for you is a loss for someone else in the division. Last year we went 33-39 in the NL West. So far this year we're 13-10.

Another way to look at it is home/road. It's hard to win on the road, and only the best teams win consistently on the road. Really good teams - ones that win 90 or more games - typically finish at least 39-42 on the road and more often than not slightly over .500. Last year we were 33-48. This year we're 11-7.

This next one ties back to run differential. While one run games can often go either way, the best teams usually win a majority of games decided by at least five runs. This year we're just 7-7 in one-run games. We certainly hope that gets better, but I'm glad we're not 23-16 overall and 13-1 in one-run games, because that success would be completely unsustainable. On the other hand, last year we were just 10-32 in games decided by at least five runs. This year? We've already won seven, and we're 7-3 overall. In fact, we've only lost one game by more than three runs in our last 30 contests! When we lose, we don't lose by much, and we've shown the ability to win comfortably. That's a good combo.

I intended to get into our pitching (tops in the NL in ERA), our defense (second in MLB in defensive efficiency), and our hitting (um...not as good as our pitching and defense), but I'll have to address those in a later post.

The bottom line is that it appears as though we deserve our run differential, and consequently, deserve our place in the standings. That's a reassuring feeling at the almost quarter mark. The challenge now is to keep it going, because there's still a long way to go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Four Good Wins and More

The only bad part of the past four games is that I wasn't in San Diego to enjoy them. Last time I wrote, I was hopeful for a series win against Arizona, and we managed to do a bit better than that. Then in the opener against San Francisco Clayton Richard had a great start against Matt Cain, and we enjoyed a walkoff. Not only was it the 4th win in a row, but it was also the 4th game in a row in which we've gotten a good start from our starter, stayed in the game, and managed to score late off the other team's bullpen. Our hope throughout the winter and spring was that we had a staff full of starters who would keep us in games and a bullpen that could preserve leads. It won't work all the time, but it's fun when it does.

For my part, I've been all around the Southeast for the past four or five days. There are always a few variables when doing amateur scouting that keep life interesting. Pitching schedules are a big one. Booking advanced travel, and even packing with a purpose, can be pointless as schedules always seem to change from week to week, guys will only throw an inning or two, and even game locations can change. Due to all the above, I usually try to have a few position players worked in as anchors in my schedule, because I should be able to see them regardless. Unless, of course, it rains like it did yesterday. It happens.

As I've told my wife, going on these scouting trips has taken me to places that she'll never see...and really has no reason to. You may think you have lived a full life, but have YOU ever been to Caldwell, Idaho? Or eaten at a Denny's in Nampa on the way there?

The reality is that most of the time you just don't see a whole lot. Like the drive from Columbus, GA to Jacksonville, FL or from Hoover, AL to Hattiesburg, MS or even from San Diego to Phoenix. There just isn't a whole lot there. Sometimes, the ubiquitous signs from Walgreen's, Subway, and Starbucks can get depressing. Isn't there anything different? But then, every once in a while, you come upon something unique:

I wasn't brave enough to ask exactly what "N-Stuff" entailed. But seriously, how great is this?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Travel is Overrated

I just landed in Atlanta (approximately 3am San Diego time) after a brutal red-eye flight. I normally don't have an issue with red-eyes, and I figured that this one would give me an extra evening at home with my kids before I left, so I didn't hesitate to book it. When I saw that I had an exit row window seat, I figured I was in good shape. Then I boarded the plane.

First and foremost, my exit row was the first of two successive exit rows, which equals no reclining. That's a tough realization at 11pm before you even begin to taxi. Getting some sleep in an upright and locked position was going to be a challenge. Next nice feature? Bulkhead...against the bathroom. Now add in that my row was adjacent to the flight attendant station, which meant that the lights were on the entire time, and it was clear that my luck wasn't changing.

Did I mention that Atlanta is only a stopover? Yeah.

In any event, it was a tough game against the Braves on Thursday. They did a great job of getting key hits with two outs, and we just weren't able to cash in on some big chances despite good at-bats and hard contact. Sometimes that'll happen, but it's a little more frustrating when it wouldve meant a series win against a good team, and the Braves are a good team. Their lineup really doesn't have any outs (guys like Escobar, Heyward, and McLouth hitting at the bottom of the order), and their rotation is full of guys who can pitch like #1's on any given day.

Speaking of rotations, we've faced a tough run of starting pitchers in our first nine games. It's not an excuse, because we have to get it done regardless, but we've had just two, or maybe three, games against guys who would be considered less than a #1 or #2 on most teams. The off-days were a devil in disguise for us for the first week and a half.

Now we have a divison rival coming to town with some good crowds expected at PETCO, which would be the perfect time for a series win. I just hope to get a little bit of sleep between now and then.

Monday, April 12, 2010

CY to the 15-Day

Today we officially placed Chris Young on the 15-Day DL retroactive to April 7 (since he hadn't pitched since April 6). The rule states that a Club can place a player on the DL and back-date the placement up to seven days assuming he has not performed in a game.

Chris felt some discomfort in his shoulder following his six inning performance in Game Two of the season. With our off-days we could have maneuvered our rotation and delayed CY's next start until the weekend, effectively skipping one turn. That was Option #1. Alternatively, we could have a spot starter for just one start, likely on Sunday the 18th, and have an extra person on the team in the meantime. That option also had the additional benefit of being conservative with CY's shoulder so early in the season. With those advantages, Option #2 became the clear choice. Hopefully CY will be back in the rotation in another ten days or so. In the corresponding move, Adam Russell was recalled from Portland.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Waiver Claims

Yesterday we lost Chad Huffman on waivers to the Yankees. You never enjoy losing a player, as you put him on your roster at one point in order to protect him. Nevertheless, these transactions always have multiple sides.

The Good
We're now at the point where we're losing good players in these situations, which speaks well of our organizational depth. Ok, I admit that's a pyrrhic victory of sorts. The main "good" to take from this situation is the acquisition of Aaron Cunningham (and even the re-acquisition of Scott Hairston). Aaron, in all candor, moved ahead of Chad on the corner OF depth chart, and the play of both Blanks and Venable didn't help either. Furthermore, we feel we have a couple of good corner OF's in AA San Antonio this season in Sawyer Carroll and Kellen Kulbacki. These guys now will have an increased opportunity. Here's hoping they take advantage of it.

The Bad
We lost the player. And, he's a pretty good one. Chad was a 2nd round pick in 2006 out of TCU and has been a successful minor league hitter throughout his pro career, posting an OPS over .800 in each season. While crushing lefties early in his career, Chad had his most successful year yet against RHP during his first season in AAA in 2009. He always controlled the strike zone and also hit for some power - a combination we like. We think he'll be a good Major League hitter.

The Ugly
The Yankees! In all seriousness, the last two guys we've lost on waivers this winter/spring, Mike Ekstrom and Chad Huffman, have been claimed by two of the best teams in baseball - the Rays and the Yankees (and the Rays also claimed Jose Lobaton late last season). At least they're both in the AL. They really don't need our help! Then again, it does reflect the relative, and growing, attractiveness of the players in our system.

This wasn't an easy decision, as we feel good about our 40-man roster at this point. We talked about a number of different guys and worked through various scenarios - who had the best chance to clear waivers, what depth did we have, what depth did we anticipate needing during the year, etc.

We hate to lose good players. Additionally, we hate to lose good people, and Chad is a tremendous clubhouse guy. Getting beyond the selfish aspect, we're excited for Chad. We truly wish him the best with the Yankees and will be rooting for him to make it to New York and contribute to the big league team.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Organizational Win

There's nothing quite like winning to get me back to writing!

On numerous occasions I've wanted to get back into the flow but just couldn't for one reason or another. Now that the season is underway, however, no excuses are valid.

Though it was slow to progress, it was a productive off-season as we were able to add a number of pieces to the Club to solidify our depth. Those moves combined with the continued maturation of our player development system should make it easier for us to navigate the inevitable injuries and other obstacles that will come our way over the course of the season. Last night was a perfect example...

We entered spring training relying heavily on our back four relievers and maybe most importantly on our one tough left-hander, Joe Thatcher. However, Joe battled a sore shoulder through spring training, so we decided that it would be best for him to start the year on the disabled list. Though we had a number of good right-handed options in Adam Russell, Ryan Webb, Ernesto Frieri, Radhames Liz, Greg Burke, Luis Perdomo, etc, we turned to left-hander Cesar Ramos, a starter throughout his career, and asked him to assume that spot in the pen. Last night he entered the game with the bases loaded and just one out to face Stephen Drew, a situation that he has never faced in his baseball career. He made two excellent pitches resulting in a weak groundball to short for a big out. Exhale.

It's easy to say that Chris Young deserves the game ball for last night's win with six innings of one hit ball against a tough lineup, because he probably does. Or maybe Everth Cabrera gets the game ball with a single, double, triple, stolen base, and four rbi (damn, that was a good night). Cesar Ramos, though, may have gotten the biggest out of the game. Given the circumstances of his spot on the team, it also may have been the most gratifying performance from an organizational standpoint.

Hopefully we'll have many nights like this one where we get key contributions from multiple players. That was what made us successful over the final two months of last season and even the past few weeks of spring training, so it was good to see it carry into the early season.

Congrats to Cesar on his first hold (and Jed on his first win). It's always good to get that first one out of the way.