Friday, May 2, 2014

The John Report ….. five season’s later …. Part One

With Season 21 in the books it’s time to look back on the Season 17 Draft and International Free Agent signings.  Who’s on track to being a star and who’s star has tarnished ?  Who’s the real DITR and who went in the SHITR.  In Part One of our look back we will focus on the International signings.  Those bonus baby IFA’s that scouts told us were worth a King’s ransom, and the ones that teams took a flyer on.

In season 17 121 IFA’s were signed.  57 were pitchers and 64 were position players.  Surprisingly, (by today’s standards) only four players signed contracts of 10 million or more.  Certainly not exorbitant when you consider some of the cash spread around in season 21 where bonuses reached as high as $40M+.  There are obviously a number of players we could have highlighted in this report.  And not every player signed could be evaluated in the time we had.  So we chose to look at the top 4 signings in terms of Bonus money extended.  And also some solid cheaper acquisitions and a few players who may have questions marks in their future.

Headlining the season 17 group were pitchers Eswalin Chavez ($24.5 M) and Fu-Te Johjima ($21M).  LF Jhonny Tavarez ($15.8M) and 2B Al Ordonez ($14.1M) were the other $10 million dollar men.  Johjima and Ordonez remain with their original teams.  Atlanta traded Chavez to Vancouver in the Benny Marcum deal on February 4th 2014.  Taverez moved from Mexico City to New York in Season 20 as part of the Scooter Lee deal.

All four of these players have either reached AAA or the Majors for their respective teams.  And while the jury may be out on AAA players Chavez and Ordonez, they both appear to be ready to make the move to the ML squad next season.  Chavez had a brief ML stop in season 20 that was less than stellar but his minor league numbers (2.49 ERA and 1.08 WHIP) are too good to ignore.  Chavez is a legit three pitch hurler and in season 21 he worked hard to improve his slider and change. He has good stamina, Control both splits and his three main pitches are solid.  The thinking around the league is that his first exposure to the majors helped him refocus and he should return to the Bigs for good in season 22.  He is expected to be a mainstay on the Atlanta roster for many seasons.
Concerns over Ordonez’s susceptibility to injury surfaced this season as he landed on the DL twice.   But, he still managed to hit .366 and has a career minor league average of .358.  He won’t hit for power but he should flourish in Detroit where small ball is the name of the game.  He has solid numbers across the board in Contact, Eye and Splits.  He doesn't have the speed of a leadoff hitter but he will make a solid number 2 hitter.  Defensively, the experiment in Right Field produced less than stellar results with serious questions about his arm being raised.  Look for him to either move back to 2B or LF during spring ball.  He is expected to make a move to the big roster next season after the 20 day FA window closes.

Johjima made his ML debut in season 19.  It was brief, but laid the foundation for his first full season in 20.  In season 20 he was 13-8 with an ERA of 2.85. Opponents only hit .228 and his WHIP was 1.19.  Last season was shortened by nerve irritation and the Colonels quickly shut him down to protect his arm.  Even still, he managed numbers similar to season 20.  His recovery appears to be on track and this 22 year old is expected to continue his growth over the next 4 or 5 seasons.  Johjima is another player with three solid pitches.  Scouts rave about his right hand split.  But he also has strong numbers from the left side, as well as serious major league stamina and control.  He is in a contract year and the current status of the Louisville franchise may impact him.  Johjima appears to be everything scouts projected him to be and if he stays relatively injury free he will anchor the pitching staff for years to come.

Jhonny Taverez is our other ML regular.  Taverez made his ML debut in season 20.  After a quick minor league career, Taverez seems to be struggling with ML pitching.  A sore shoulder suffered in season 17 seems to be in the rear view mirror, but questions remain as to whether or not that injury impacted his growth.  The New York media has been ruthless in their criticism of Jhonny’s hitting numbers.  With his high power rankings, and the short 314 foot porch in New York, the expectation was for him to be a solid force in the middle of the lineup.  Without large homerun numbers, his .256 ML career average became an issue for the media.  In response, Jhonny spent some time in Venezuela winter ball where he improved his right hand split.  The good news is that league scouts say that he is not done improving his hitting skills.  But they also raise questions about his defensive skills.  One GM pointed out that he was a league low .955 among LF last season.  Could a move to 1B be in his future ?  Not with Pete Benson also on the roster.  Jhonny Taverez seems to be at a crossroads in his career.  Season 22 may be a make or break one for him in New York.

That’s where we stand with the Big Four of season 17.  But what about the other IFA’s  ?  There will still 117 other signings and several of those still raked in a hefty pay day.  How are they doing ? 

Rising Stock

Monterrey’s Yunel Rios was signed for a reasonable $6.0M in season 17.  He was claimed off waivers later that same season.  Since that time he has made a steady march through the minors and last season he was called up for good.  Before signing, Rios was projected to have some high hitting numbers.  So far, he seems to be on track.  With additional growth seasons ahead of him, he seems to be in line to hit the projections. His .363 AVG and OBP of .414 in his first full ML season forced the EXPRESS to give him time behind the plate. Although his coaches would like to see improvement in his pitch calling, his defensive skills are good enough to keep him there.  There’s no question that the waiver acquisition by Monterrey was a wise one.

When DC signed Wascar Herrera for $270K midway through the season.  It barely created a ripple within league offices.  To be perfectly honest, Herrera was overlooked by 31 other teams.  Under the watchful eye of DC’s Latin Scout Enrique Campos, Herrera was given a private workout in Pozo Hondo.  Originally a Left Fielder, DC moved him to first base and started him in the Rookie league that same year.  Although he lacks the traditional power numbers of a 1B, his contact and batting eye caught the attention of the DC staff.  Since season 17, Wascar has moved steadily through the minors and is looking to start season 22 in AA.   Along the way his splits have improved as have his range and glove numbers.  After hitting .357 and making the all-star team, bigger things are certainly expected.  The jury is still out on whether or not Wascar can crack the Major league roster.  But he is continuing to grow.  And for a few bucks, DC got a steal. 

Being Watched Closely

While the jury may still be out on these players, the early returns have been a little spotty.  Is this the year that these players make their ML debut ?
Ricardo Ramirez was signed for $8.0M to be one of the bullpen mainstays in KC.  He may be knocking on the door having spent his last two seasons in AAA.  Season 21 was far better than season 20.  With a 3.44 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, he is beginning to show signs that he is ready for the challenge of the Bigs.  No one can argue with his first pitch.  And his control has been great, registering nearly a strikeout per inning and a little over 2 walks per 9 innings. The question is, can he duplicate this in the majors.  There are still some concerns over his right hand split.  He will also need a reliable second pitch to make the impact KC is hoping for.

Angel Rodriguez may also be at the crossroads of his career.  His growth appears to have slowed significantly and his defensive numbers put him slightly below the ML average.  Signed for a reasonable $5.2M, the investment in Rodriguez has been minimal.  Atlanta added Rodriguez in a season 20 as part of the trade for Al McAnaney with Iowa City.  Rodriguez just completed his third season in AAA where he hit a respectable .277.  This spring, Atlanta will probably be evaluating Rodriguez’ future with the team.  A fourth season at AAA may weigh heavily on his psyche.

Another player under his team’s watchful eye will be CF Ruben Canseco.  Canseco was another reasonable acquisition.  He was signed for $4.8M by Dover.  He was signed in the second half of the season, sent to the Arizona instructional league, and didn't see any significant playing time until season 18.  Since then he has moved up the minor league food chain, and was at AAA last season.  He excels as a base runner with not only great speed on the base paths but also game savvy.   As you would imagine, his range is good as well.  But, he will need to improve his glove, arm and throwing accuracy.  All three are critical for a CF.  But he is still progressing.  Dover is hoping that improvement this spring may signal that he is ready for the Big League squad in season 21 or 22.  Offensively he has to cut down on his strikeouts and improve his batting eye.  He registered nearly 200 strikeouts in 1000 at bats over the last two seasons.  And his OPB is .244.  He may possess the speed and high enough contact to bat leadoff.  But without an improved batting eye and more plate patience he won’t be given the chance.

Pedro Moreno was signed for $4.1M.  In his first ML season with the Jaxx, he split time with Juan Hernandez.  Hernandez possess the better defensive skills and Moreno the better bat.  Moreno has been a pleasant surprise for the Jaxx, making it to the ML squad in his fifth season.  He has good hitting ratings particularly against right handed pitchers.  He should be more difficult to strike out because of his batting eye, but he needs to improve his patience at the plate.  Defensively his arm is lethal for runners trying to steal.  But he will need to improve his range and pitch calling to win the starting job full time.  Long term, Moreno should be a mainstay in Jacksonville.  And he should play a valuable role as a backup Catcher and DH.

In Part two we will look back on the Season 17 draft.  As always, there were winners and there were losers.  There were gambles that paid off, and some that didn't.

The John Report ….. five season’s later …. Part Two

When the smoke cleared, and all the supplemental picks were taken, Season 17’s Draft produced 77 first round picks.  That is the most 1st round selections in the History of JB5.  70 of the 77 picks signed.  And 41 of those picks are already on a major league squad.  25 more sit at AAA ready to make the jump.  With all of the first round selections, the rest of the draft was a little watered down.  Round two produced 34 selections, seven of which are already in the majors.  As you would expect, all ten of the first eleven selections who signed, are making a contribution to the ML roster.  Two of the top 11 picks are notable for their immediate contributions.

Overlooked ?

One pick in season 17 really stands out.  In season 18 1B Sal Becker was the MVP of the Futures game.  One season earlier, Becker was the sixth pick in the draft.  The pride of Hawkins Texas, already has three complete ML seasons under his belt.  He was the season 19 NL ROY, and the season 20 NL MVP.  What an impressive start.  Rumor has it his bust is already being ordered for the HOF.  He has solid power numbers, with 113 HRs and a career average of .308.  Becker is a switch hitter and that allows Nashville to leave him in the cleanup spot no matter who he is facing.  Long range projections indicate Becker still has growth left.  If there is a concern about Becker it’s his defensive skills. Although he projects slightly below average as a first baseman, his season 21 stats were respectable.  He has a long career ahead of him in the cleanup spot for Nashville.  And at some point off in the future, he might be a solid trade chip where he would project to a DH role in the AL.  But that appears to be a long way off in the future.

Another big time contributor was picked right after Becker.  With pick seven, Washington selected 1B Torey Zagone.  Zagone just completed his first season on the big league roster for DC.  Another power hitter with great numbers, Zagone hit 46 HRs and .308 in season 21, and won the NL ROY award.  Originally drafted as a Left Fielder when he came out of high school, Zagone began to make huge strides after he was moved to 1B and began to focus on his hitting.  Scouts project Zagone to be one of the top defensive first basemen in the NL with a good glove and excellent range numbers.  Add this to his already impressive offensive skills and you have another future HOF candidate.  In any other season, Zagone would probably be the top player selected in the draft.  One thing is certain.  Since Zagone and Becker both play the same position, and both entered JB5 in season 17, their careers will constantly be linked.

As expected

Three of the top 11 selections in season 17 are contributing as expected.  Although their contribution may not have reached the heights of Becker and Zagone, they are doing just fine.  Top pick, Will Moore has solidified the CF position for Rochester.  Like Zagone, season 21 was his first full time at the ML level.  He was a Silver Slugger, and was selected for the All-Star team.  His career .304 average, 23 HRs and 54 SBs are reflective of his skills.  He has excellent contact and speed.  And his batting eye is already one of the best in the league.  Over the last few seasons Moore has worked to improve his base running skills.  He had 51 thefts in 62 attempts last season.  His coaches tell me those numbers will increase as he learns more about the pitchers in this league.  All this, and he possess a little pop in his bat.  All in all, Moore is progressing just as expected.  Rochester is looking forward to many “Moore” seasons from Will.

Second pick Jerome Ray just completed his second season on the Atlanta ML roster.  The lefty is expected to be the future ace of the Atlanta staff.  After a rocky season 20, he went to work in Venezuelan winter league to improve on his splits.  His season 21 numbers reflect those improvements.  18-8 as a starter in season 21, Ray lowered his WHIP (1.15) and his ERA (2.92).  Scouts like his control, improved splits and his nice four seam fast ball.  In season 21, Ray was recognized as an early Cy Young candidate and was rewarded with a trip the All-star game.  It’s probably not his last.  Atlanta is methodically building a young talented team and Ray looks to be the future ace of the Atlanta staff.

Fifth Pick Pedro Zapata is another player who made a quick jump to the ML roster.  Pedro joined the big squad in season 19 and immediately hit .301.  Over his three seasons in the Bigs, he has held steady with a career average of .285 and an OBP of .351.  Across the board, Pedro’s hitting ratings are all in the 70s and his ability as a switch hitter, makes him very valuable.  Scouts around the league would like to see his glove work improve.  But, on the plus side, he was able to cut his minus plays significantly in season 21.  Zapata played a multiple of positions in season 20 and that versatility may come in very important to the Zombies in the future if they find a better glove to play SS.

Acquired by Atlanta in a season 20 trade with his original team (San Francisco), Stuffy Madson is another significant piece to the rebuild taking place in Atlanta.  As the 13th selection the season 17 draft, Madson was the focal point in a trade that sent Al Pena and Bengie Cayones to Colorado Springs.  Originally drafted as a RF, Madson was moved to Left once he arrived in Atlanta.  The move fits his defensive skills much better.  Although he hit a solid .301 in his first season for Atlanta, projections show that Madson is still improving his hitting ratings.  He certainly provides a little more power (25 HRs in season 21) than expected from a two hole hitter.  His ratings are pretty solid across the board and he fits nicely into the long range plans in Atlanta.

Questions that need to be answered

Injuries to Willie Guardado (31st selection) have slowed his progress and growth.  As he enters season 22, there are some big questions that need to be answered.  Another season at AA may really set him back psychologically.  If the long term goal is to have him pitch in the majors, he will need to transition to AAA this season.   Scouts around the league are beginning to question whether or not he can play at the top level.  How much of his growth slowdown is because of injuries ?  Guardado’s makeup will probably have a lot to do with how he recovers.  
Everyone in the Anaheim organization will be keeping a watchful eye on the situation.

Acquired from Atlanta in a mid-season trade, Cookie Lopez (selection 36) is also on Anaheim’s watch list.  Lopez should also make the transition to AAA this season.  Cookie is another player whose batting skills growth appears to have slowed significantly.  His value to the big squad may be defensively.  He already possess all of the defensive skills you would want in a ML 3B.  And indications are that he will continue to improve defensively.  This will be a season where work with a great hitting coach may decide whether or not Lopez views the “California Spectacular” geysers from the dugout or a sports bar in season 23.

Monday, August 26, 2013

AL First Half Review

Well after completing the NL first half review yesterday, let’s take a look back on the First half of the year in the AL and what it has had to offer so far.

Biggest Surprise – The parody in the South and West
                The AL South and the AL West both boast the biggest parody amongst any divisions in our league.  Both divisions separate worst to first by only 7 games, leaving no team out of the division title race as the season approaches the All-Star break.  One hot streak may be all it takes for someone to run away in one of these divisions, setting up a nail biting second half

AL Cy Young – With much respect to everyone else pitching in the AL, it is Scooter Lee’s league and everyone else just gets to play here.  Despite having to pitch in Yankee Stadium, the winner of 2 of the last 3 Cy Young Awards is currently 10-3 with a sub 2.00 ERA.  He also leads the league in Strikeouts, WHIP and almost every other stat worth mentioning. 

AL MVP – I gave some thought to putting Scooter Lee’s name here as well, as his season has been that good, but you just can’t overlook the seasons Mariano Johnson and Paxton Harper are putting together.  Harper is 3rd in HR, leading in RBI’s all while hitting .316 and playing superb D out in LF for Boston.  Johnson’s leading the league hitting .379, is first in slugging and OPS and is trying to help Arizona overcome the loss of Juan Dominguez over the off-season as he left for greener pastures in the NL.  All that being said Paxton Harper key’s the offense for the team with the best record in the league and has to be the first half MVP.

With half a season left to go, anything is possible in any division. The trade deadline is looming, and soon buyers and sellers will emerge, so here’s hoping the 2nd half of this season is as competitive as the first all around.  If it is most races can expect to go down to the wire and be undecided heading into the last week of the season.

Coming soon: Season 19 Draft Review

Sunday, August 25, 2013

NL First Half Review

Well the season is slowly creeping up on the halfway point, so let’s review where we stand.  By the looks of things currently it is shaping up to be a 7 team battle out west for 5 spots.  This should lead to an interesting second half as teams jockey for playoff contention

Biggest Surprise – Charleston Chews – After years of mediocrity the Chews have themselves positioned for a possible post-season run here.  The only question is whether or not their pitching can hold up over the second half.  This team will only go as far as their starting rotation and defense take them.  Currently 2nd in the league in runs allowed but 13th in runs scored, this team has surprised everyone as it tries to capture its first division title. 

MVP – While Juan Dominguez has been everything Atlanta has hoped for and more, I just can’t justify giving an MVP to a player whose team is under .500, so my choice in this matter is George Wood, Mexico’s Do It All SS, who is currently leading the league in RBIs and is the focal point of the team with the best record in baseball.

CY Young – The half season Cy Young winner is probably the hardest choice I’ve made writing this.  You could make a case for half an Anaheim’s pitching staff alone for the award.  But in the end I’m going with Henry Weinhardt. Calling the Sandbox that is Mexico his home, Henry has still put up a first half stat line that would make any manager blush. 10-3 2 complete games, 2.28 ERA all while logging the 2nd most inning of any pitcher in the NL. 

If the second half of the season is anything like the first, all I have to say is we are in for a treat in the NL as the playoff races materialize and every game means something.

Coming Early Next Week - The AL and Draft Reviews

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Relocation Coming Soon

AL North - The Scranton Schrutes are leaving the Beet Farm, for hopefully greener pastures. After placing 3rd in the AL North and being left out in the cold by a ultra competitive Wild Card race, this team is still growing. Starting with their youth, Christopher Meluskey has proven he can be a future leader for this team. Winning the Gold Glove in left field and Rookie of the Year honors in season 17, he has the foundation to build something special wherever this franchise plants its roots next.

Magglio Escobar is still the ace of the pitching staff. Even at 33, he is a workhorse, reaching 220 Innings Pitched for the 6th time in his career. A move to even the slightest of a pitcher's park might help as he continues to age.

Right behind Escobar in the rotation, is veteran Lonny Sardinha who has proven he still has what it takes to compete at a high level. With former SS turned Gold Glove CF, Endy Lewis patrolling the field, not too many balls are gonna be falling in if hit in his direction.

AL West - Winning the division five out of the last eight seasons and making two World Series appearances (won it all in season 14), this franchise has been one of the most consistent in recent memory. Now looking for new ownership for the first time in 14 seasons, there is plenty here to get excited about.

Ace Greg Price added a fifth Cy Young award to his mantle in season 17 and has made plenty of room to add more going forward. With an offense that includes a 40 home run hitter in Darren Spencer (he's only 25) and future HOF hopeful, Tom Nickle, Price's 22 wins in S17 seem like a very repeatable task once S18 is under way.

NL North - A project going forward this franchise is just one season removed from a 91 win season. It may not take that long too get back there however. Given the right owner and a few good veterans like, Sean Jeffcoat whose .329 career average ranks him third All-Time in J5B history. Al Pimental is coming off another great year at the plate where he posted a .337 AVG and .437 OBP.

The youth movement that is on its way to this franchise will be key. All former first rounders, all pitchers. Taylor Barkley, Andre Stewart, Terry Beckett, and Glen Ventrella will all be headed to the ML ranks within 2-3 seasons. Whether these guys make it to the bigs or act as trade chips along the way, their contributions will certainly have an impact.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shipping Up To Boston

Roy Cepeda
Age: 37B/T: R/R
Born: Santa Ana, CA
Position(s): 1B/DH
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Future Hall of Famer, Roy Cepeda's career isn't done just yet. On Wednesday afternoon, the league approved a trade that will send Cepeda to Boston, for a minor league pitching prospect.

Cepeda's entire career has been within the (currently) Texas Coyotes organization. After putting up HOF numbers throughout his career, Cepeda saw his playing time dip last season and continue to fall this year. "[Ownership] has always been honest with me and kept me well in the loop in terms of what they're plans for the team and myself have been."  said Cepeda. "I've been a proud member of the Coyotes for many seasons and will always cherish the time I've had here. In my reduced role, I tried my best to mentor the younger guys and always do anything the team needed. I just feel that at this point in my career I still have a little more to offer on the field, in the right situation, before its over."

Cepeda went to ownership asking for a trade over the weekend, and was quickly obliged. GM Diesel had this to say over conference call, "Roy has always been everything you want in a player. He's obviously talented, but his toughness and work ethic have always been his greatest attributes. He's been a leader on and off the field over the years and has done a fantastic job of mentoring some of our younger guys since they've come up."

"He came to me on Saturday and asked if I'd be willing to look at a trade, which I agreed. I knew it wouldn't be very hard to find a team that would want a guy like Roy, but I also wanted to make sure we traded him in to a good situation. He gave us a short list of places he thought he'd like to end up and the first call I made was to Boston. I knew they might have a need for a bat off the bench or DH and knew that they would give him the at-bats he was looking for."

"I'm very sad to see him leave. He's a great player, that has meant a lot to this organization and has become a great friend to a lot of us. I wish him the best."

Cepeda landed in Boston earlier this evening and had this to say to reporters, "I couldn't be happier to be here with the Patriots. They're a great organization. I know a few guys in the club house really well, and they have nothing but positive things to say. I'm excited to get on the field at Fenway."

Cepeda is currently third on the J5B all-time list in Hits and Runs Batted In. He also sits just five Home runs shy of 500 for his career.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Up for Grabs

Salem Witch Trials (AL)
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Currently residing in Salem, Oregon, the Witch Trials will be taking place elsewhere next season. This franchise is currently up for grabs to new ownership.

Within the AL West, the Witch Trials have been an average franchise. They have finished 3rd or 4th in the division 9 straight seasons. The have not had a winning record since season 7, but have not been too far under .500 since then. This Franchise is in need of a dedicated Owner/GM that knows how to build a winner. Currently, this franchise has some young talent and key verterans in place that will help win sooner rather than later.

Dean Counsell is currently under contract for The next 2 seasons. A key veteran for the franchise is their highest rated player. He has hit for average the last few seasons and has some pop. Defensively has been primarily a Center Fielder, though a position change might be in his very near future.

Francisco Cedeno is J5B's reigning Gold Glove winner at SS in the AL. In fact, he's won 5 straight. While at the plate, he'll strikeout a lot but will knock out a few home runs as well. He might not be a premiere run producer, but his Elite glove will certainly prevent more than a few.

At the ripe old age of 24, Kenny Judd has a lot of good time left in him. Playing a reduced role the last 2 seasons, many GM's think he's been wasted. He has great speed and a solid contact rate. An increase in playing time under new ownership might be just what he needs to really show what he can do.

Jack Garcia saw full time duty as the teams closer in season 16 and fared rather well. He has loads of talent and looks to be the teams closer for many years to come.

Rookie Tex Floyd had some growing pains in his first year in Oregon, but the 7th overall pick in season 13 still has plenty of room to grow.

The pride of the farm system has to be Skip Andrews. Some GM's say he could play in the Majors right now, but would benefit from a little more seasoning. At age 20 he destroyed High A competition. He should be ready to help the Major League club very soon.