2014 NBC Tournament: Weekend One Thoughts

I watched six games this weekend at the NBC World Series in Wichita KS. I have covering some teams for Baseball America (Jayhawk and MINK teams) which will be published at a later date. Here are some players who stood out to me on some teams I am not covering.

Scott Merrill (Prev. Neosho County CC, AR Little Rock) is going to be a SR at King College (Tenn). While having some control issue, he flashed a 88-91 mph fastball and curve with a great break. If he could find a way to just throw the two pitches consistently, he could be a good bullpen arm.

Timothy Williams on the San Diego Force stood out for his speed. The small left-handed hitter made several great diving catches in the outfield. He could hit with line drive power and I timed him at 4.3 to 1B. He will be a Senior at George Fox University (CA) this fall. He has hit .351/.441/547 for career at GFU.

Tyler Staub (University of Texas, San Antonio) is 6’4” 205 right handed Junior this up coming season who played for the Albuquerque Dialbos. He was the person who looked the part of a ball player more than anyone else I saw over the weekend. Batting 4th and playing shortstop helped to stereotype him. That was about it though. He was smart enough to lay down a perfect bunt which stopped on the line half way to 3B when the infielders were playing in the outfield grass. Nothing else.

Ryan Baca for the Greeley Grays was my favorite pitcher to watch over the weekend. He is heavy left-handed pitcher who just attacked the El Dorado Broncos. A David Wells clone. He threw almost exclusively a 82-84 mph fastball (73 mph curve missed in), which kept El Dorado off balanced the whole time.

Marco Blanchard of the Puerto Rico National Collegiate Team. The left-hander used a Johnny Cueto like twisting pitching motion with his back to plate. His fastball was 86-91 mph straight fastball with a 84-86 mph slider and 80 mph change. While he will be a freshman at Ecclesia College, he is already 22-years-old.

Abdiel Alicea is a switch hitting freshman (uncommitted) who played short stop for the Puerto Rico National Collegiate Team. While he wasn’t challenged in the field, I timed him at 3.85 to 1B on a bunt from the left side.

James Gutierres is another uncommitted freshman for the Puerto Rico National Collegiate Team. He is all field and no bat… at least of what I saw of him. Probably the best outfield defender. I timed the right hander at 4.55 to 1B.

ZOBRIST Update – Unappreciated Hitting “Prospects”

In my pre-season’s FG+ article at FanGraphs, I created at a method to help find unappreciated hitting talent in the high minors like Ben Zobrist. I won’t go through the methodology (FG+ is one of the few bargains online at $6 and contains all previous articles and player profiles), but I do have an updated ranking for the 2014 season. I have included the last season the player appreached on Baseball America Top 100 Prospect Ranking.

Name Position Team ZOBRIST Age Last Season Ranked
1 Travis D’Arnaud C Mets (AAA) 285 25 2014
2 J.B. Shuck OF Angels (AAA) 146 27
3 Jermaine Curtis 3B Cardinals (AAA) 135 26
4 Mookie Betts 2B Red Sox (AAA) 126 21 2014
5 Eric Campbell 1B/3B/OF Mets (AAA) 112 27
6 Cole Figueroa 2B/3B Rays (AAA) 110 27
7 Jemile Weeks 2B Orioles (AAA) 110 27
8 Jordany Valdespin 2B/SS Marlins (AAA) 108 26
9 Ty Kelly 2B/3B Mariners (AAA) 106 25
10 Luis Flores C Cubs (AAA) 106 27
11 Tommy La Stella 2B Braves (AAA) 105 25
12 Allan Dykstra 1B/DH Mets (AAA) 104 27
13 Jorge Soler OF Cubs (AA) 95 22 2014
14 Didi Gregorius SS Diamondbacks (AAA) 87 24 2013
15 Shawn Zarraga C Brewers (AAA) 87 25
16 Justin Bour 1B Marlins (AAA) 84 26
17 Jake Goebbert OF Padres (AAA) 83 26
18 Jason Krizan OF Tigers (AA) 82 25
19 Rey Navarro 2B/SS Reds (AAA) 81 24
20 Kike Hernandez 2B Astros (AAA) 81 22
21 Christian Colon 2B/SS Royals (AAA) 80 25 2011
22 Kevin Pillar OF Blue Jays (AAA) 79 25
23 Steven Souza Jr. 3B/OF Nationals (AAA) 79 25
24 Johnny Giavotella 2B Royals (AAA) 79 26
25 Logan Morrison 1B Mariners (AAA) 76 26 2010
26 Mike O’Neill OF Cardinals (AA) 76 26
27 David Cooper 1B Indians (AAA) 74 27
28 Jace Peterson SS Padres (AAA) 74 24
29 Ramon Flores OF Yankees (AAA) 71 22
30 Ronald Torreyes 2B Astros (AAA) 70 21
31 Dario Pizzano DH/OF Mariners (AA) 70 23
32 Charlie Cutler C/DH Cubs (AA) 70 27
33 Tyler Holt OF Indians (AAA) 67 25
34 Cedric Hunter OF Braves (AA) 65 26
35 Austin Wates OF Astros (AAA) 64 25

Two-Seam vs. Four-Seam Fastball Groundball Rates

Yesterday, pulled some data for Eno Sarris on pitch type and groundball rates. He was looking for the average groundball rates for different pitch types. I stole a bit of the data and ran a query I have wanted to for a while: What is the average groundball rate difference for a pitcher who throws both two-seam and a four-seam fastball. For those who don’t know, a two-seam fastball has more movement than a four-season. And what I found was:

Pitchers will see a 9.5% point increase in their groundball rate when they throw their two-seam fastball compared to their four-seam fastball.

Grit Redefined?

I have used and written on grit in so many different ways over the years. My usage includes a stat to find gritty players and a fantasy league which had only grit based stats (e.g. hit-by-pitch and complete games). I have always considered grit to be “giving as close to 100%, 100% of the time” especially related to under talented players. Recently, I ran across the following definition of grit by Kyle McDonald which defines it differently:

the perseverance and passion required for long term goals.”

The first part, perseverance and passion, generally fits my implied grit definition. I see grit has a more short term trait. For example, McDonald says coaches and player state:

we need to be gritty” or “it was a gritty effort.”

Those statements do not seem like long term goals, they are more game based. When a coach says, “it was a gritty effort” after a game, there is no implication to the team working towards long term goals. Instead the coach is only talking about the game effort.

Also, the grit I know means physically going the extra yard by diving for a ball or playing through pain. By just using the author’s definition, a player like Miguel Cabrera can have the drive to achieve long term goals and is therefore gritty. I would not consider Cabrera to be gritty like Willie Bloomquist is considered to be. Am I off on my grit definition? Thoughts?

Two Views on Pre-Game Player Engagement

I have been slowly working my way through the Mental Game of Baseball. It focus’s on players being more into the game. The following book quote is on pre-game fielding ritual:

Infield

It seems the book authors and Ozzie Smith imply infielders should be concentrating 100% during pre-game practice.

The Diamondback Head Trainer, Ken Crenshaw, has taken a different philosophy to the pre-game ritual. It should be low stress and focus on player rest and recovery.

And for baseball, recovery is imperative.

“We want to create the environment where they can recover because the game is so monotonous and the repetitiveness of it all. We have a lot of different methods of rest and recovery that we focus on. It is one of the most important things that we do for our players.”

A baseball season is filled with many factors that can affect a player’s health. Travel, time-zone changes and changes in altitude are three things Crenshaw says “will really turn a player’s nervous system haywire if they are not careful.”

I am not sure which one is right. I am guessing it really depends on each player, but I am sure teams will either go fully engaged or not at all. Thoughts?

Updates – New Leaderboards and Release Point Variance

A few updates got finished today (more on the way). Thanks to Darrell for doing the coding. Let us know if anything looks wrong.

New leaderboards

For Hitters:

For Pitchers:

Additionally, total and vertical release point variance with baselines were added to the pitcher injury factors output.

Player Makeup Important for Baseball Prospects

I just got done re-reading one of the best articles on scouting called Best Tools (link). It contains some amazing information from actual scouts on what they are looking for in a prospect’s makeup. With so many prospects equally matched in talent, makeup plays a huge role in deciding who gets scholarships and/or draft and who doesn’t.

First, I just can’t rightfully cut and paste a whole section of the article, so the Scouting Makeup section (about 2/3 of the way down) should be read in full. It is a great how-to on what to and not to do on and off the field. Here are some quotes from the section.

I’m going to go talk to the bus driver, I’m going to go talk to the cafeteria lady, I’m going to talk to the janitor—the people who are around the kid the most but have no horse in the race and find out exactly what this kid is all about.

and

Obviously there’s always exceptions, but the good students, from a scouting perspective, are going to be able to retain instruction and figure it out.

and

Every guy, whatever the story is behind them, is going to hit a tough spot and you want to see how he’s going to deal with adversity, so hopefully you do see him in some sort of spot in a game where you can figure out if he’s going to rise to it or if he’s going to shrink from the moment. You see how the guy interacts with his teammates and you talk to his coaches to see what kind of work ethic the player has.

Besides the entire section on makeup here are some notable quotes from the infield defense section.

You want to get there early and watch him take groundballs and infield practice. While they’re taking batting practice, see how he shags them off the bat—if he does shag them off the bat. Maybe he’s the type of guy that doesn’t do that. That tells you a little bit about the guy, too. But maybe he’s power shagging out there, taking all kinds of balls off the bat in the infield or outfield. And then, of course during the infield practice, you really bear down on him to look at his instincts and his actions and his range and his arm strength to get a feel for the glove.

and

What I don’t like as a scout is when the infielders just half-ass the ball over to first and don’t show any arm strength. We’ve got to see the arm strength. When we don’t see it, we have to project it.

Every potential prospect needs to understand they are being looked at under a microscope and the little things will make a huge difference on which players will be offered college scholarships and/or drafted.