Young guns for hire

rubby

Once upon a time the minor league fireballing heroics of Nathan Eovaldi, Rubby De La Rosa, and Chris Withrow made Dodger prospect hounds salivate with the idea of adding these three high-velocity prospects  to the Dodger rotation.

All three have several things in common:

  • Each of them was a top five Dodger prospect
  • Each of them could throw a fastball through a barn door
  • Each of them has had TJ surgery
  • None of them have ever reached the original expectations though Eovaldi and Rubby have had moments.
  • Each of them has been cut loose this winter and are now free to sign with any team

It was back in 2011 when Rubby showed up throwing 96 MPH and was the gem of the system.  He made his first appearance for the Dodgers on May 24th, 2011 and would stay with the team until he blew out his elbow in late July. Until the elbow went out, everyone expected him to be a permanent fixture in the 2012 rotation. He would never pitch for the Dodgers again as he was traded the following summer in the Punto deal. It took Rubby a while to get over his TJ surgery but every once in a while he would show some glimpses of what his future might be.  In the summer of 2015, Joc Pederson hit a grand slam off of Rubby and on June 8th his ERA sat at 5.98 and he seemed destined for AAA or the bullpen. However, something clicked and over his next thirteen starts he put up an ERA of 2.83 in 81 innings. He wasn’t great by any means but he was averaging six innings a start during that stretch.  Many expected Rubby to take the next step up in 2016, he turned 27 on March 4th and was supposed to be part of the newly revamped Diamondback team that was going to make a run at the Giants/Dodgers. We know how that turned out and as bad as it was for the Diamondbacks it was even worse for Rubby whose season ended on May 25th. He would come back in late Sept for two games to show he could still throw but 2016 was a bitter season for Rubby. The Diamondbacks have new management and they didn’t feel that Rubby was worth what he might win in arbitration so he’s now free to make a deal with any team.

Nathan Eovaldi actually replaced Rubby in the Dodger rotation in 2011 and while he didn’t AVG 96 on his fastball he did average 94 and could hit 99 at times. His command was spotty in 2011 but he did make six starts before moving to the bullpen in Sept. Eovaldi cracked the Dodger rotation in 2012 by late May and would make 10 starts for the team before being traded for Hanley Ramirez. In the winter of 2014 he was traded to the Marlins for Matin Prado and was a mainstay in the Yankee rotation until he blew out his elbow on Aug 10, 2016. He has undergone TJ surgery and will be out all of 2017 so the Yankee’s non-tendered him several weeks ago.

With Rubby and Eovaldi gone, 2007 1st round pick Chris Withrow would show up in 2013 and also hit 96 MPH and give glimpses of a bright future. Withrow made his Dodger debut in June of 2013 and would stay with the team the rest of the season. He was a bright spot in the bullpen giving up only 20 hits in his first 34 innings. His best game that season was a scoreless three-inning extra inning effort to help the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks on July 10th. He started out 2014 as the best pitcher in the bullpen. In his first 16 games, he pitched 17 innings, gave up one earned run, and only three hits.  On May 17th his career came crashing down, as he gave up five runs and one game later was slated for TJ surgery. Withrow would also never again pitch for the Dodgers, being part of the silly Callaspo trade in the summer of 2015.  Withrow took a long long time to come back from his TJ surgery and did not pitch for the Braves until 2016. He wasn’t great this summer, but he sure wasn’t bad.  He had one horrific game on June 12th in which he gave up six runs but in all the other games combined he pitched in 45 games, 37 IP, 9 Earned Runs, only 24 hits. Of those 45 games, 37 times he pitched a scoreless outing.  Fangraphs has him only hitting 94 MPH these days.

You could make a case for all three of these pitchers pro and con. I made the case for Eovaldi several weeks ago as someone to sign now to a two-year deal and hope for a payoff in 2018.

Rubby is a huge injury risk. He avoided TJ surgery this summer but was shut down in Sept when he attempted to come back. He said he doesn’t have pain but that he just didn’t feel right. Either way, whoever takes the chance on Rubby might be doing themselves a favor by also looking to move him into the bullpen.

Withrow looks like he’d help any bullpen in some capacity. He no longer is the guy that some(including me) felt could be a dominant closer but he certainly seems to have come back to the point of being at least a Chris Hatcher.

 

Trading Places – Don Ameche for the win

donameche

No, Don Ameche is not the right-hand bat the Dodgers seek, and no, this is not Dodger trade talk.

This is about one of my favorite all time movies, Trading Places. Why would I write about Trading Places now you ask? Because someone brought up Dick Van Dyke at TBLA and for some reason, my brain pivoted to “I’d have loved to see Dick Van Dyke play Mortimer Duke”. Not that I didn’t love Don Ameche. In fact, this movie relaunched the career of this 1940’s iconic movie star.

If you are a fan of the movie, you will probably love all this inside information on it.

And he came in and was prepared to read for me. I was so shocked. I said ‘You don’t have to read for me.’

He hadn’t made a movie in 14 years, he’d been doing dinner theater.

While we were shooting later in Philadelphia — he was so wonderful — I said, ‘Don, may I ask a question? How come you haven’t worked in 14 years?’ And he said, ‘Well, nobody called!’

The great upshot of this is after Trading Places came out, the next movie he was in was ‘Cocoon,’  which he won an Oscar for. He never stopped working the rest of his life — he made like 10 more movies — I worked with him twice more.

One of the reasons I loved the film so much is that I love the world it worked in, even with all the sleaze and old money.  I may have had to explain the movie to a dozen people who didn’t even know what a commodity was at that time.

The writing was great, the cast was brilliant, it helped push along the careers  of many of its participants. Putting Dan back on the map after the death of Belushi, getting Jamie Lee Curtis out from under the Horror films so she could bedazzle us in “A Fish called Wanda” (also one of my favorite comedies), showing the range of Eddie Murphy, and getting Don Ameche back in front of audiences.

 

Trade Talk Time

With the winter meetings around the corner a few pieces are falling into place for other baseball teams but the Dodgers have yet to make any moves beyond Rule 5 decisions, and minor league transactions.

One of the vexing problems for the Dodgers this off-season will be how to add some right-hand pop to the left-handed heavy lineup. Especially if Justin Turner takes his talents elsewhere.  Turner had a great year, but he did his best work against RHP, and the Dodgers need someone who can wreck some havoc upon the southpaw side of the equation.

With that in mind, my first trade proposal involves our friendly rivals from Missouri. We have a solid young left-handed center fielder who is completely inept against LHP and I don’t think that is going to change as he ages which leave him as a platoon CF. On the plus side, Joc does excellent damage against RHP which of course is the predominant arm.

If you want to get a strong RHB who can play CF, and matches up age wise with Joc you are probably looking at Randall Grichuk. The former 1st round pick of the Angels had a massive 2015 but regressed in 2016.

The Highlights:

The Lowlights:

  • High K rate, almost 30%
  • Low walk rate, 5.8%
  • Was demoted to minors in 2016 after struggling to start the year but finished strong
  • Was horrible in high leverage situations

How does that compare to Joc?

The Highlights:

The Lowlights:

  • High K rate, 28%
  • Can’t hit LHP at all, trending down, career OPS of .599, in 2016 it was .469
  • Horrible in high leverage situations

Grichuk has earned 5.3 fWAR over the last two years with 3.1 in 2015 and 2.2 in 2016 . Joc has earned 6.5 fWAR over the last two years with 2.9 in 2015 and 3.6 in 2016. Joc did this in 1061 PA, while Grichuk did it in 828 plate appearances.  Joc has the big advantage in on-base skills, and almost one year in age though that age does not translate to having more team controlled years. The biggest advantage for Grichuk is that he can be played against both left and right-hand pitching, and will help the Dodgers with their southpaw problem.

Anyway, I’m going to keep going because the player I want to acquire if the Dodgers don’t sign Justin Turner is Jedd Gyorko.

Why:

Sooooooooooooooooooo

With all that in mind, this would be my trade proposal:

Grichuk and Gyorko

for

Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez and somebody to make it enticing for the Cardinals.

 

The Cardinals have two right hand hitting center fielders in Grichuk and Pham and this gives them more flexibility having Joc/Pham. They save some money for a player who might only be a utility player for them in 2017 if Wong/Diaz/Peralta stay healthy while getting a player like Hernandez who can play anywhere and might bounce back from his dreadful 2016.

Of course, if I’m the Cardinals, I’m using Gyroko as my starting 3rd baseman not Peralta and I don’t make this trade unless the Dodgers significantly add to it.

But it was a fun exercise.

 

 

Is Cody Bellinger just another glorified James Loney?

As Cody Bellinger’s prospect stock continues to rise, I’ve started to hear two things that intrigue me.

  1. He should be untouchable because of his perfect timeline within the Dodger organization.
  2. He’s basically a hyped James Loney

His timeline does in fact,  match up perfectly for the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez will be off the books at the end of 2018 at which point IF Bellinger matches the hype, he would be the perfect replacement, not only from a cost issue but from a production issue.  But that should not make him untouchable. Yes, people throw around untouchable a little too easy these days when we know no one is untouchable if the price is right, but in this context, it should take something significant to pry Bellinger away from the Dodgers.  Bellinger is the best prospect on the team replacing Cory Seager and Julio Urias from last year.  Seager in one year has proven he’s an MVP talent, while Urias still has much to prove given he’s rightfully been handled with kid gloves. I don’t think the Dodgers will trade him, but if they do I’m sure the return will make Dodger fans giddy for 2017 to start.

Regarding being a glorified James Loney. Yes,  they are both 1st baseman. Yes, they are both left handed. Yes,  they have both been young for their respective minor league seasons. Yes, they both had a reputation in the minors for being excellent glove men.

But

That is the end of the comparison.

Loney had the great rookie league season and the hype built from there but he never replicated that production until the major leagues where he inexplicably proved the scouts right by having two great 1/2 seasons before normalizing into the player he would become the rest of his career.  His minor league career did nothing to suggest he would be anything more than what he became. A good glove man, decent OBP numbers, little power.

Bellinger is athletic enough to play the outfield, including center field.  Bellinger can run, Loney never could. Yet the real difference is the power tool. Loney never displayed power in the minor leagues and in fact hit one home run in his final season in AAA while playing in the offensive PCL league. Over his minor league career,  James Loney hit 38 home runs in 2600 Plate Appearances.  Bellinger has hit 60 home runs in only 1440 minor league plate appearances. And he hasn’t even had a full season in the PCL yet. You want power from your 1st baseman and for the first time in decades,  the Dodgers have a legitimate power hitting 1st baseman as a prospect.  Bellinger led his age group in home runs in 2016 with 26 between AA and AAA. He’s turned 21 back in July but for baseball purposes,  his 2016 season was his age 20 season.

Prospects being what they are, the signs look good for Cody Bellinger but many things could change between being a highly ranked prospect and turning that into a slugging 1st baseman.  MLB is littered with the failures of highly ranked prospects, but at this point in time, I don’t think there is any comparison between what James Loney in the winter of 2005 was expected to bring to the table compared to the winter of 2016 Cody Bellinger.

FTR – Rotowire has him as their top Dodger prospect, Fangraphs has him as their 2nd Dodger prospect, MLB has him as their top Dodger prospect. Being the top or even 2nd best prospect in a still loaded Dodger system is nice from a ranking point of view.

 

McCutchen is not an old 30

One of the most famous trades of the past 60 years occurred in the winter of 1965 when the Reds traded future HOF Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas. The Red General Manager Bill DeWitt made the famous comment that Robinson “was an old 30”. At that point the soon to be 30 years old Robinson had already accumulated over 6,000 plate appearances,  six top 10 MVP seasons and one MVP. He would, of course, go on to win the Triple Crown and MVP in 1966 for the World Champion Orioles, and that trade is considered by many to be one of the worst trades in baseball history.

Why are we bringing this up? Evidently,  Andrew McCutchen is on the trading block. Jim Bowden from ESPN Insider has suggested a Dodger match of Jose De Leon and Cody Bellinger for Andrew McCutchen.

I’m not sure I’d do that deal given how perfect Bellinger is lining up for the Dodgers. McCutchen only has two more years on his contract with favorable terms. He’s owed $14M in 2017 and $14.7M in 2018. He’d be a free agent after 2018 working perfectly with all the other contracts coming off the books over the next two years.

He had a sub-par age 29 season in 2016, both offensively and defensively. The Dodgers don’t need a center fielder, they need a left fielder that can hit left-handed pitching, or they need a full-time right fielder if Puig gets moved.

Want to add this link where a Pirate Blogger took a look at his strong finish.

At the end of July Andrew McCutchen had a 22.2 percent line drive rate and a 33.1 percent hard contact rate. Since August 5th his line drive rate is still 22.2 percent, but since August 5th he has experienced a big spike in hard contact rate. Since August 5th McCutchen’s hard contact rate is 41.5 percent.

Earlier in the season Andrew McCutchen was reportedly dealing with a wrist issue. Despite this, McCutchen played through it. However, a wrist injury is arguably the worst injury a hitter can get. It can have a negative impact on your bat grip, your bat speed, your batting stance, and your all-around ability to hit.

If you look at baseball history, not very many outfielders have put up the kind of numbers that McCutchen has put up and not continued to be effective for their age 30 and 31 seasons.

If McCutchen is indeed available, I think the Dodgers should be all over it. I’d think they have enough minor league depth to make this happen without having to make Cody Bellinger part of the deal.

There have been only 20 outfielders to have an OPS+ > 130 by age 29 with over 5,000 plate appearances since 1947.

Player WAR/pos OPS+ PA From To Age
Mickey Mantle 84.3 175 6697 1951 1961 19-29
Hank Aaron 73.5 158 6582 1954 1963 20-29
Ken Griffey 70.6 149 6688 1989 1999 19-29
Willie Mays 68.2 158 5301 1951 1960 20-29
Barry Bonds 66.2 157 5403 1986 1994 21-29
Frank Robinson 63.8 150 6408 1956 1965 20-29
Rickey Henderson 61.3 134 5930 1979 1988 20-29
Al Kaline 59.7 132 6746 1953 1964 18-29
Carl Yastrzemski 53.2 139 5978 1961 1969 21-29
Duke Snider 53 144 5494 1947 1956 20-29
Cesar Cedeno 49.2 130 6051 1970 1980 19-29
Reggie Jackson 48.3 150 5058 1967 1975 21-29
Tim Raines 45.5 133 5621 1979 1989 19-29
Bobby Bonds 43 133 5236 1968 1975 22-29
Darryl Strawberry 40.1 144 5137 1983 1991 21-29
Andrew McCutchen 37.5 138 5179 2009 2016 22-29
Jim Rice 31.8 136 5131 1974 1982 21-29
Juan Gonzalez 29.9 136 5283 1989 1999 19-29
Greg Luzinski 19.1 133 5321 1970 1980 19-29
Adam Dunn 15.7 132 5417 2001 2009 21-29

 

I was trying to see if anyone else had been traded before their 30th age season besides Frank from this list.
Ken Griffy was also headed for 30 when he was traded from the Reds to the Mariners. As we all know his time with the Reds was not as productive as his time with the Mariners but his five years right after the trade were certainly productive enough that you’d make that trade again and again.

Rickey Henderson was traded long before he reached 30 years old.

Cesar Cedeno is on the list but his best years were at age 21 and 22, and by 30 it was clear he was in huge decline. He had not received a top 10 MVP vote since he was 25.

Reggie Jackson was traded after his age 29 season but that was because he was going to be a free agent after the year he was acquired.

Tim Raines was traded after his age 30 season. He would never again receive any MVP votes, but you’d have to decide for yourself if he would have been worth acquiring. He was still a productive player but no longer an all-star.

Bobby Bonds was traded after his age 28 season. At that point he had an OPS+ of 131 and two top five MVP seasons. It was the ultimate challenge trade for Bobby Murcer who was also 28 and had an OPS+ of 134 with three top 10 MVP seasons. He would also never have another top 10 MVP season.

The last person on the 20 player list was Adam Dunn who was traded during his age 28 season for Free Agency reasons.

Eleven HOF from that list of 20.

Busts after 30 would be Strawberry, Murcer, Juan Gonzalez, Cedeno, Gregg Luzinski

Merkel Merkel

For all my German friends

As the Dodgers get started on their free agency spending spree, it is good to remember they are “the honey with the money”.

Nathan Eovaldi hits free agency

The NYY designated old friend Nathan Eovaldi making him an interesting free agent in this year of very few interesting free agents. Eovaldi is recovering from TJ surgery and is expected to miss all of 2017 so any team that signs him would need to sign him to a minimum two-year deal.

I’m not that interested in Eovaldi as a starting piece, but if he was amenable I’d love to see the Dodgers talk him into a three-year deal and proceed with turning him into a key bullpen piece.  Eovaldi has teased as a starter but as the stats show he gets hit hard from the 4th inning on. 

Season | 1stPA | 2ndPA | 3rdPA
2016 | 0.669 | 0.672 | 1.164
Career | 0.674 | 0.694 | 0.887

Nathan never developed a changeup, but is still a three-pitch pitcher with his fastball, slider, and split finger. Before his surgery, he was still throwing 97 MPH.

This was his 2nd TJ but the first one came back when he was in high school and he’s now 26.  Of course, it isn’t my money but Eovaldi would have been my choice to turn into the next Wade Davis before the surgery, now who will outbid for his services in 2018?

 

A winter of decisions

Will Kenley Jansen or Justin Turner stay or go?

I think this winter will finally give us a real clue about how the Dodger front office plans to build the Dodger team now and in the future.

Last year the Dodgers went hard after Grienke but not hard enough to keep him from heading off to Arizona to count his dollars for a terrible team.

This year they have two key players that are free agents since they were unable to come to terms with either Kenley Jansen or Justin Turner during the summer. Rich Hill was acquired in mid-season for a stiff price and is also a free agent. Kenley Jansen and Turner would bring back draft picks if they sign elsewhere, Rich Hill will not.

I have numerous questions about this winter.

  • Will the Dodgers go hard after their free agents since they don’t have any current replacements for either player and both players were at least in the top five at their position?
  • If they don’t re-sign Kenley Jansen will his replacement come from within the organization, free agency, or trade?
  • If they don’t re-sign Justin Turer will his replacement come from within the organization, free agency, or trade?
  • Will they roll the dice once again with Chase Utley and a platoon partner or look for a full-time second baseman via free-agency or trade?
  • Will they show confidence in Puig and once again make him the full-time right fielder, or continue to peddle him as they did this past summer?
  • If they sign Rich Hill, will that be the extent of their moves related to the rotation?
  • If they don’t sign Rich Hill, will they be searching for another pitcher via free agency or trade? There are no “quality” starters in the free agent market, so they can go back end or trade for a high-end starter.
  • If they go the trade route to fulfill their needs, which prospects will they be willing to let go? One has to assume the Julio Urias is just about untouchable but you never know.
  • Do they consider Cody Bellinger the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez?
  • Do they think Willie Calhoun can be an NL second baseman?

In three months we should have answers to all these questions, and as they get answered it will start to give us clues about how this front office will act in the future.

Maybe

Mo Mo Mo

As the Clippers look for their 5th straight season with 50 plus victories there is no more looking back, no matter how often clueless fans want to remind Clippers fans of their sordid past.

Like the Dodgers, the Clippers will be hoping to extend their postseason in 2017 beyond the 1st or 2nd round. Part of the optimism is the natural growth of the core unit and the improved second unit. A unit made much stronger with the addition of Marreese Speights.

Two of the Clippers biggest rivals during their renaissance have been the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors and the one thing they had in common was the same thorn, and his name was Mo Speights.

Some players just annoy the hell out of you when you play against them, and Mo Speights was one such player. He always seemed to get the clutch baskets and for a second unit player, had way too much impact for my liking.  I was always saying to myself, “damn I wish he was on my team”

And now he is.

And now he is the same thorn but instead of hurting the Clippers he’s causing the other teams to bleed. Last night was just another example as he popped three, three-point shots along with the key fourth quarter offensive rebound that helped the Clippers come back from a 19 point deficit to defeat the hot Bulls.

Speights scored 11 of his season-high 16 points in the fourth for the Clippers, whose only two losses have come at home to Oklahoma City and Memphis.

 Speights’ biggest assist came with 49 seconds left. Jamal Crawford missed a 3-pointer and Speights got the rebound. He fed Crawford for a driving reverse layup that restored the Clippers’ lead to five points.

The Clippers are now 12 – 2 with the best record in the NBA even though they have played one of the toughest schedules in the NBA. They are now 8 – 0 in four back to back games winning all of the 1st and 2nd games.

Kyle Farmer makes the cut


It was obvious the Dodgers were going to add Chase De Jong, and possibly Jacob Rhame to the 40 man roster yesterday but it seemed doubtful that Kyle Farmer would also make the list.

Today, Farmer can look at the Dodger 40-man roster and see his name for the first time.

This was the press release from the Dodgers:

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today selected the contracts of right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong, catcher Kyle Farmer and right-handed pitcher Jacob Rhame, giving the club 40 players on its 40-man roster.

 De Jong, 22, was selected as the Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year, honored by the league as a mid- and post-season All-Star and named by Baseball America as a Double-A Classification All-Star this year after combining to go 15-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 26 starts with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He limited opponents to a .210 batting average with a 1.03 WHIP, while striking out 133 against just 40 walks in 147.0 combined innings. The Long Beach native was acquired by the Dodgers on July 2, 2015 in a trade with the Blue Jays and was originally selected by Toronto in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

 Farmer, 26, earned an All-Star selection with Double-A Tulsa this year, hitting .256 with five home runs and 31 RBI in 74 games. The University of Georgia product has a .291 career batting average, while throwing out 35.2% of would-be basestealers (100/284) in four professional seasons after being selected by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2013 draft.

 Rhame, 23, spent the 2016 campaign with Triple-A Oklahoma City, going 1-7 with seven saves, a 3.29 ERA and a .231 opponents’ batting average in 54 relief appearances. In 169 games during four professional seasons, Rhame has a 10-16 record with 27 saves, a 2.83 ERA, a .209 opponents’ batting average and a 1.10 WHIP after being selected by Los Angeles in the sixth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Grayson (TX) Junior College.

It seemed doubtful that any team would have picked Farmer in the upcoming Rule 5 draft but evidently the Dodgers felt it was not worth the risk to lose their minor league depth at the catching position.

Anyway, the news on Farmer gave me a chance to dig deep into my music catalog and bring out one of my old favorites, the Beat Farmers. A band that had three lead singers with Country Dick Montana putting out the Deep Baritone in songs like King of Sleaze.

In 1995, Montana suffered a heart attack and died while playing “The Girl I Almost Married” during a Beat Farmers show at the Longhorn Saloon in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.[4] The band disbanded shortly thereafter.