Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Brandon McCarthy?

No, you didn't miss any news.  No, I am not breaking news.  No, I am not going to make any more no and then a comma statements.  This is my very first in a long series of off-base predictions.  I think the Twins will sign Brandon McCarthy, thus adding him to their 40-man roster.  McCarthy will not be a free agent until after the World Series ends and the Twins have not been linked to McCarthy.  Why write about him now?  Page Views!  Click Bait!  Revenue!  Ad Wizards!  Buy my book!  Buy my book!  Buy my... 

2014 Season Overview
Like Jay Sherman, McCarthy had his ups and downs.  He started the season with the Diamondbacks and by April 22, he was already in what I like to call "Nolascoville" with a 6.23 ERA.  From that day on, McCarthy posted a 3.66 ERA, a strikeout-to-walk ratio just above six, and he finagled a move from the dreadful Diamondbacks to the less dreadful and much, much more loathsome Yankees.  He did all that with a BABIP over .335, just to prove how #sabr he really is. 

Also, he was suddenly throwing harder.  Or, he was doctoring radar guns.  Either way, he's a genius. 

2015 Role Projection
#2 Starter

2015 Season Prediction
McCarthy slots in quite nicely between Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey.  Wait, c'mon, be nice.  He actually would look quite good as the number two starter between Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson.  With Trevor May potentially in the rotation and Alex Meyer waiting in the wings, there may actually be an avenue where the Twins can successfully gift Pelfrey to Derek Jeter as I proposed in July.

McCarthy has been really great since 2011 when he decided that "walks are bad."  In the past four seasons, he has consistently walked fewer than two batters per nine innings.  As we learned from Phil Hughes last season, every single pitcher to ever pitch for the Twins lowers their walk rate to historical levels.  This bodes well.

A 90s Song for Brandon
Foo Fighters - "This is a Call"

Long-Term Outlook
McCarthy will turn 32 in 2015 and despite having nine MLB seasons under his belt, he has thrown just under 1000 innings in the Majors.  His low-walk, decent-strikeout act has worked well for other pitchers in Minnesota and not just Kevin Slowey.  In fact, if he has somehow managed to add velocity while maintaining his impressive walk rates, all at age 31, then the second half of his career could be even better than the first.

If nothing else, he can revert back to what he was in 2011-13:  A really solid starter.  The Twins have hardly cornered the market on really solid starters. 

Is he a keeper?
They have to land him first, but he would be a keeper if they can.  McCarthy meets all the criteria of a Twins pitcher: 
  • Doesn't walk batters
  • Tall
  • Battles
  • Let's his fielders field (in that he doesn't try to play all nine positions at once)
  • Owns his own glove
These are not insignificant traits.  Brandon McCarthy would instantly become the Twins' second-best pitcher.  If Ricky Nolasco bounces back or looks like he did in September, the Twins suddenly have a pretty deep rotation:
  • Hughes
  • McCarthy
  • Gibson
  • Nolasco (but the good one from Sept)
  • May/Meyer
This would allow the Twins to hide Mike Pelfrey under coats for the 2015 season or give him to Derek Jeter as I have now suggested twice.  McCarthy doesn't turn the Twins into an 85-win team, but he could be a piece that helps move the team in that general direction.  I'm calling it:  I will be disappointed or right.

If you enjoyed this analysis, please note that I am going to analyze the entire 40-man roster and a few BONUS players along the way.  If you did not enjoy this analysis, please click here and read my other posts on this topic, just to make sure that you really don't enjoy them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Aaron Hicks

What's the word for when something is exactly the same as it was before, only you really hoped that it would be better or at least different but it wasn't and you're crying when I met you and then dying to forget you?  Aaronsmithing?  Aerohicksing?  I'll admit this paragraph makes no sense when you admit that you'd enjoy seeing Aaron Hicks perform in an Aerosmith cover band, but that only plays their 90s songs.  I don't want to miss that thing.

2014 Season Overview
The thing about disasters is that you generally can't have a second disaster.  A second disaster is just cruel.  Well, the first one is cruel too.  It's just ... look, I'm not trying to come off as pro-disaster.  Can we move on?

Aaron Hicks followed up a disastrous 2013 with another disastrous season in 2014.  He did improve his overall performance, but from an '87 Honda Odyssey to a '93 Toyota Corolla.  Is that an apt comparison?  I don't know cars.  If you're wondering why I'm writing about disasters, Aerosmith and cars instead of Hicks, it's because I'm exhausted.  I've defended Hicks just about as much as anyone and I'm not sure I can take another season of being his only champion.

2015 Role Projection
Since I'm exhausted, I'll just assume that Hicks is the starting center fielder once more, a position that he is unlikely to actually earn and seemingly equally unlikely to hold down for the whole 2015 season.  Hicks got on-base at a nice rate in 2014, but he provided less power than an old Honda Punto.  At least Hicks played relatively well in AAA.  Maybe he needs a full season there.  At age 25.  Approaching arbitration.  Bungled. 

2015 Season Prediction
This is the year!  Hicks has too much talent to fail three times.  He's going to get handed the center field job but that's fine, he's going to seize the unwarranted third opportunity and hold down the job until Byron Buxton is ready to seize the job from Hicks and hold it down until the end of time.  Hicks will put together the decent power he showed in 2013 with his solid OBP from 2014 and become a competent outfielder who can hit enough to move to a corner when Buxton arrives. 

Or, he won't.

A 90s Song for Aaron
Blind Melon - "Three is a Magic Number"

Long-Term Outlook
Hicks will be just 25 in 2015 and his performance has been so poor that an arbiter might rule that he actually owes the Twins money when he gets to that point.  The Twins are likely to be bad in 2015 and Hicks is still one of the more logical breakout candidates in 2015 because of his combination of talent and opportunity.  The Twins have just one real outfielder on their MLB roster going into 2015, so Hicks could easily make the team, harness his talent and become a long-term piece.  Well, not easily.  He's proved that twice already.

Is he a keeper?
I guess; why not?  The two bad seasons are done and gone.  Those seasons will be hard to forget, but I'm guessing everyone would forget it right around the time Hicks starts putting together a good season.  That's the thing with memories, they're short.  If Hicks can just be good in April, he'll change his story, possibly forever.  If he's bad in April?  Maybe Buxton will be ready.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Lester Oliveros

Close your eyes...wait don't, you can't read with your eyes closed.  Imagine you're closing your eyes.  Now, imagine you're on vacation.  Say you're headed to Hawaii.  You are excited about the weather, the sights, the food, the beaches, the fun, the works.  However, there's still going to be a point in that vacation where you're doing something just because you have to.  For instance, waiting in line for your rental car.  Well, we're waiting for the rental car of the Twins' 40-man roster analysis vacation.

2014 Season Overview
Oliveros threw 6.1 innings for the Twins and managed a 7.11 ERA.  He gave up two home runs.  He did finish two games, so that's something.  1 home run per game finished.  HR/GF - sabermetrics 3.0.  Now, his FIP was 7.08, so he was better than his numbers might indicate.  In the Minors, Oliveros was excellent, posting a 1.64 ERA in 65.2 innings split between New Britain and Rochester.  He earned the right to teach us all about FIP v. ERA. 

2015 Role Projection
Well, I compared him to a rental car, so you could surmise that I'm not high on him.  To me, he seems like a fine AAA depth reliever and a guy you can call up when you're completely desperate for a player capable of having an arm. 

2015 Season Prediction
There's not much to predict for a player who likely won't matter much in the Twins' 2015 plans.  They can't possibly be relying on him or planning for his inclusion in the bullpen.  If they are, then things are more bleak than we even realize.  Nothing personal against Oliveros, but it's pretty clear that he's not a guy who even a decent team should be thinking of.  However, I'll guess that he has a very solid season in the Minors and forces another September call-up.  I'm not a Oliveros-hating monster. 

A 90s Song for Lester
Blur - "This is a Low"

Long-Term Outlook
He's been good in the Minors before, but he has an ERA over 5 in his brief MLB career.  He was also the player to be named later in the Delmon Young trade, so it's clear the Tigers valued him greatly and the Twins wanted him desperately.  I'd say his long-term outlook is good because he plays baseball for a living, but not great as a person who makes a living playing baseball.  If that makes sense.

Is he a keeper?
As a guy who will likely never reach arbitration, sure why not?  Like I already stated, he can serve as decent AAA depth and he'll likely only play for the Twins if everyone important is injured, the Twins are terrible in September, or if they change the rules of baseball so that teams try to give up the most runs.  One of those is likely, one of those is pessimistic and one of those is just a glimmer in the eye of future commissioner Joe Mays

This is too negative.  Look at his Minor League numbers.  It's conceivable that he could have a decent career as a reliever in the Majors. He strikes out a lot of batters, he doesn't walk a ton and he's never gotten a consistent chance in the Majors.  In fact, with the success of the Eddie 400, perhaps it might be time for the Lester 50?  I'll kick it around.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Mike Pelfrey

YEEEEEEEAHHHhh!  Remember this dude?  He's the who wants to eat your soul in the Twins' barbershop commercial.  Here's a refresher:

More importantly, Mike Pelfrey is the guy the Twins paid over $1 million per start in 2014.  Not ideal, but what if they were truly amazing starts? 

2014 Season Overview
They weren't.  After spending most of 2013 wandering around the pitching mound, Pelfrey was re-signed to a two-year deal for 2014 and 2015.  He earned this contract based on...probably...height?  Pelfrey is really tall, no one can dispute that.  Pelfrey was slotted as the Twins' fourth starter out of Spring Training.  He threw 23.2 innings in those five previously mentioned starts, posting a 7.99 ERA, 1.983 WHIP and 0.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Despite these numbers, the Twins placed Pelfrey on the disabled list on May 2, instead of completely moving all of the team's operations to hide from him as I had advocated for.  Pelfrey never got healthy and didn't pitch after May 1.  Pelfrey has currently made $9.5 million from the Twins and rewarded them with a 5.56 ERA in 34 starts.  He's averaged just a hair over 5 innings per start as a Twin, revealing his true value to the team:  bullpen-practice helper. 

2015 Role Projection
Blerg, probably in the rotation because he's under contract.  In a just world - some sort of baseball scarecrow. 

2015 Season Prediction
Any positive prediction for Pelfrey is completely illogical.  Since 2011, Pelfrey has an ERA of 4.99.  He can't go deep into games, he slows down the game, he licks his lips constantly, he's not young and he doesn't have upside. 


So, it's not all bad. 

A 90s Song for Mike
Pearl Jam - "Release"

Long-Term Outlook
I think his long-term outlook is pretty great.  He's only 31 and he had a 3.66 ERA in 2010.  That may seem like ages ago, but remember how Nick Blackburn pitched in that one game 163?  That bought him like 3 extra years, and he was mostly healthy.  Pelfrey had a full season of good games back in 2010 and he's barely gotten a chance with the Twins due to injury rehab and then injuries.  There are still people who probably think Blackburn didn't get a fair shot, so Pelfrey is likely to get a fair chance in 2015. 

Since Pelfrey's performance has yet to be a reason to get rid of him, I can only imagine he'll get another contract after the 2015 season.  He's earned it, right?  Perhaps he becomes a Twin for life, one day becoming the pitching coach, then the manager, then the general manager and then the owner, eventually holding all of those titles concurrently. 

The more likely scenario involves the Twins releasing Pelfrey at the end of Spring Training, Pelfrey signing with the Pirates, Pelfrey throwing one good game for the Pirates and the entire Twins Facebook page spontaneously bursting into flames. 

Is he a keeper?
Define keeper.  Could he provide some surprise value in 2015?  I suppose it's possible.  Perhaps his injuries really held him down in 2013 and 2014.  Perhaps when fully healthy, he can be a serviceable back-end starter.  $5.5 million isn't a crazy price for a back-end starter and Pelfrey was good back in 2010 (remember).  The money is a sunk cost and any value would be a big surprise.  That's the best way to spend $11 million - to explain the concept of sunk cost to a fan base. 

If he's bad and then re-signed for 2016, we'll know that the Twins are just trolling the daylights out of us.  So, at least we'll have that knowledge.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Oswaldo Arcia

Oswaldo Arcia led the Twins in outrageous swings, wacky outfield plays and amazing hair.  He also improved as a hitter in 2014 and he appears to have the potential to be a cornerstone offensive player.  He is currently a man without a real position, as he has not shown the ability to be a reliable outfielder and he hasn't hit enough to be the long-term DH.  Can Arcia harness his talent or will his Billy Mumphrey-esque unbridled enthusiasm be his ultimate downfall?

2014 Season Overview
Arcia was up and down in 2014.  He batted .231/.300/.452.  His batting average dropped about twenty points from 2013 and his OBP dropped about five points.  Arcia also continues to rate as one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and the eye-test would confirm that data.  He struck out at a very high rate and some of his swings can be described kindly as "adorable" and "aggressive" or harshly as "wild" and "uncontrolled."  

But man, that .452 slugging percentage!  Arcia has power.  He hit 20 home runs in 410 plate appearances, a roughly 30-home run pace over a full season.  His power is more impressive within the context of his age.  Since 1995, only 75 players have slugged over .450 at age 23 or younger.  Last season, only five non-Arcia players 23 and under slugged like Arcia:  Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna and...Danny Santana!  Santana isn't a power hitter, but the other four could be described that way.  So can Arcia.  He's got the potential for elite power and he's already flexing it as a very young man. 

2015 Role Projection
Right Field - Starter - Heart of the Order

2015 Season Prediction
I'm about as bullish on Arcia as one can be.  I see a blossoming star and a potential emotional leader in the dugout.  Arcia is about as exciting a Twins player as we've had in recent memory.  He's wild, exciting, sometimes careless and generally carefree.  I predicted 55 extra-base hits for Arcia in 2014 and I'll make that same prediction for 2015.  I might even push it to 60. 

Arcia will be entering his third season, he should be an unquestioned starter and he's just a lot of fun to watch.  That might be qualitative data, but I'm still going to use it.   His defense...will be fun when the Twins are winning.    

A 90s Song for Oswaldo
R.E.M. - "King of Comedy"

Long-Term Outlook
It's great.  It's relatively safe to say that Arcia will never hit .300 in the Majors.  He doesn't make contact like a .300 hitter.  He also is unlikely to be an elite OBP-guy, as he does like to swing.  However, he should continue to grow in those areas as he matures and his power will keep pitchers from giving him too much to hit.  I think Arcia is a major breakout candidate in 2015 and he could be a fixture in the Twins' lineup for a very long time. 

Is he a keeper?
Oh goodness, yes.  Arcia might be one of those guys who you curse in the 3rd inning when he misplays a ball in right, but then you cheer wildly for and cut your hair like when he hits a walk-off home run in the ninth.  He's going to be a rollercoaster of a player until he fully matures.  At his peak, I think Arcia could be a .280/.370/.500 hitter who absolutely fits the profile of a traditional #3 hitter.  Giving up on Arcia at 23 because he plays like a 23-year-old would be completely unwise. 

I love him.