The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Strange Brew

I'm not an injury analyst, nor do I play one on TV. But five years of reading Will Carroll, a winter spent writing about the Brewers for Baseball Prospectus 2008, and a night at a Holiday Inn afforded me the chance to pinch-hit for my colleague as he stepped aside on the Brewers Team Health Report due to consulting interests (I'll be doing the same for the Rangers in a couple of weeks).

The Brewers have become one of the best teams in the league in terms of managing injuries (they won the 2005 Dick Martin Award for best team health system), but as a small-market team, their margin for error is slim. While their rotation is eight deep at the outset of spring training, youngsters Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva as well as nominal ace Ben Sheets all turn up as red lights under BP's system, which uses an actuarial base to determine the likelihood of injury. A red player has at least a 45 percent chance at serving some time on the DL this year, though the system doesn't distinguish between a torn rotator cuff and a blister. In other words, the Brewers will need some of that depth, a point underscored by Gallardo's early-spring misadventures:
No sooner was I set to tie a bow around this THR and send it to our editors than the news broke that Gallardo would undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, something which will knock him out of action for a month. While this is a minor surgical procedure, the real danger is if his return compromises his mechanics, along the lines of Kerry Wood in 2006. Assuming Gallardo's not rushed back and doesn't encounter any mechanical hiccups, the injury may actually help by moderating his workload. Prior to the knee problem, Gallardo already turned up red; between Nashville and Milwaukee, he threw 188 combined innings last year, the highest total among 21-year-olds in organized baseball this side of Felix Hernandez. Intuitively, the Rule of 30 would suggest he's got headroom to maintain or slightly increase his workload without excessive risk, but the hitch is that the Rule of 30 is based on major league innings, not a combination of major and minor league innings. Even using the Davenport Translations or a similar adjustment, those minor league frames just don't bear the same predictable relationship to risk as the major league ones, all of which means that the risks increase for Gallardo beyond 140 big-league innings -- a cap that suddenly doesn't look too far out of line when you factor in some extended training and minor-league rehab.
Elsewhere, the team's young infielders, particularly Rickie Weeks, carry some risks as well. But while it certainly looks as though the Brewers are carrying a lot of red lights -- more than any other team in the NL Central -- a peek at the THR spreadsheet available to BP subscribers shows them in relatively good shape among the NL Central contenders. The spreadsheet lists the projected starting lineup, five-deep rotation, closer and top setup man for each team. Taking yellow as a default equal to zero, green as +1 and red as -1, the Brewers net out at zero (as many greens as reds), while the Reds come in at +2, the Cardinals and Cubs both as -2 by this crude analysis. Still, the bottom line is that winning always takes some luck in the health department, and the Brewers will be no exception.


Friday, February 15, 2008


The Rocket Gets Smoked

My piece today at Baseball Prospectus covering Wednesday's Congressional hearing will have a familiar ring to anyone who's been following along in this space. While there's plenty to debate about the propriety of such a dog and pony show in Congress, not to mention the credibility of the Mitchell Report and of Brian McNamee, I focused on the hearings as a product of Roger Clemens' public quest for vindication:
In any event, Wednesday's hearings weren't so much about the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform's interest in the culpability of the commissioner, the union, or the owners as they were about Roger Clemens' decision to challenge the findings in the Mitchell Report in an attempt to clear his name. Without Clemens' vehement campaign to discredit the work of the Mitchell Commission while denying the charges that he used steroids and human growth hormone, there would have been no hearing. But given his goal of vindicating himself, it's difficult to conclude that Clemens did anything but fail miserably on a grand stage.

...Clemens came into the hearings needing to cast doubt on the Mitchell Report, on Pettitte, and on McNamee, and at best, he went a weak one-for-three. The proceedings raised credibility questions about his former trainer, demonstrating that McNamee basically fits the profile of someone desperate who gets backed into corners like these -- allusions to a Florida rape case where the charges didn't stick, a fake diploma and some shady misrepresentation, a seriously ill son, and a sudden desire to set things right for the youth of America so as to avoid jail time. His accounts appear to be in a constant state of evolution, which opens him up to facile charges of lying but which are, as Souder pointed out, characteristic of people forced into such deals. For certain, McNamee is no prize pig, something we've known for months; Clemens and his allies on the committee didn't get very far beyond that, and in fact Clemens created new problems for himself while dealing with the body blow of the other major revelations.

Indeed, experts suggest the probability of a Department of Justice perjury investigation versus Clemens, though I'm skeptical there's enough evidence to convict him. Meanwhile, there's much less to suggest McNamee is in danger of being proven as lying about the Mitchell-related allegations and thus in violation of his proffer agreement, or that Clemens' defamation suit against McNamee will gain any traction. Had Clemens simply copped to using HGH (and only HGH) as Pettitte did after the report came out, this sordid saga would likely be over. Clemens and his legal team look foolish for not recognizing that unless the Rocket was absolutely spotless -- and here, the unchallenged information about Debbie Clemens' HGH use looks especially bad -- he was going to be hung out to dry.

Roger Clemens was very good at intimidating batters for over 20 years, but his brawn and bravado simply don't work in a legal or pseudo-legal setting. He's gotten far more than he bargained for in his quest for vindication. Instead of throwing smoke, he's simply been smoked.
Today's headlines have brought some new information into the mix. According to this New York Times piece, committee chair Henry Waxman now regrets that the hearing took place, and reveals that on the Republican side, only Tom Davis and Mark Souder even bothered to read the depositions. It's telling that Souder came off as one of the few Congressman on either side to cross the partisan divide:
Souder was also one of the few committee members who refused Clemens's request for a private meeting before the hearing. And it was Souder who stood out from his Republican colleagues by stating during the hearing that the depositions were "fairly devastating" against Clemens.

"I don’t think, quite frankly, that they anticipated quite the solid wall on the Republican side, the defense of Clemens," Souder said Wednesday of the Democratic members of the panel. Speaking of Clemens, he added, "It wasn't an accident that word got to me that he’s a Republican, or he said that President Bush called him."
Meanwhile, much more information about McNamee's debriefing by investigators from the Clemens camp is coming to light. If you thought this saga was over, think again.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


I Forgot to Misremember to Forget About the Time You Injected My Wife

Once again, it was a very surreal scene to see baseball hauled in front of Congress for the purposes of posturing about steroids. From where I sat in the Fox News Radio Studio, where host Dave Anthony and I were joined via phone by Jim Bouton, it was a pretty bad day for Roger Clemens. Andy Pettitte's testimony stating that Clemens told him of his HGH use, the revelations that Clemens discussed HGH with Brian McNamee, who injected his wife, and Clemens' potential tampering with a witness, the family nanny, who placed Clemens and family at the Jose Canseco house despite Clemens' claims to have been playing golf -- all of those things made the Rocket's testimony look less than credible.

As for the Congressmen we saw parading in front of the cameras, if it's true that we get the elected officials we deserve, then we as a nation must have befouled some giant ancient burial ground to bring forth the grandstanding morons of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Yesterday's proceedings mostly followed a partisan line, with Democrats going after Clemens and Republicans attacking McNamee, the latter with a high degree of histrionics (Dan Burton, Darrell Issa, Virginia Foxx and my old nemesis Christopher Shays being the most egregious). Blech.

Clemens came into the hearings needing to cast doubt on the Mitchell Report, on Pettitte, and on McNamee, and at best, the proceedings raised credibility questions about the latter, demonstrating that he basically fits the profile of the kind of desperate schmuck who gets backed into corners like these (allusions to a Florida rape case, a fake diploma, a sick son, and a sudden desire to set things right for the youth of America so as to avoid jail time). But I don't think Clemens got very far beyond that, and in fact created new problems for himself while dealing with the body blow of the Pettitte testimony and the revelations about his wife.

Furthermore, I don't think one can rule out a Department of Justice perjury investigation versus Clemens, though I doubt there's nearly enough to convict him. Meanwhile, there's nothing to suggest McNamee is in danger of it being proven that he's lying and thus in violation of his proffer agreement. If Clemens had just copped to HGH (and only HGH) a month ago like Pettitte did, this sordid saga would probably be over, and Clemens is a dolt for not recognizing that unless he was absolutely spotless he was gonna get hung out to dry. He's gotten way more than he bargained for in his bid for vindication.

Anyway, I'm in the midst of a heavy load of radio appearances this morning. Catch me if you can:

WCHV Charlottesville
0710AM ET

WHAS Louisville, KY
0715AM ET

0739AM ET

WBUV Mississippi
0810AM ET

WRVA Richmond, VA
0822AM ET

WHJJ Providence, RI
0835ET AM

WTVN, Columbus OH
0842AM ET

KOA Denver, CO
0905AM ET

WOAI San Antonio, TX
0911AM ET

WOC Davenport, IA
0920AM ET

KFBK Sacramento, CA
1038AM ET

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Mr. Clemens Goes to Washington

Those of you who drop by here for Yankees-related coverage -- not that I've had much this winter -- have probably noticed that I've had little to say on the Roger Clemens/Mitchell Report story in this forum. I haven't been entirely silent on the issue, however. I was part of Fox News Radio's in-studio anchored coverage of the Mitchell Report's release back in December and did two sets of Fox affiliate hits straddling the report's release. I did another series of affiliate hits regarding Clemens the day after his 60 Minutes appearance in January, and I've just found out I'll be part of Fox's in-studio coverage of Clemens' Congressional testimony on Wednesday beginning at 10 AM Eastern. See here to find the affiliate in your area or to listen to streaming coverage over the Internet.

As for writing about the Rocket's 'roids-related revelations, I covered the pinstriped angle of the Mitchell Report for Bombers Broadside 2008, a forthcoming book on the Yankees from Maple Street Press. This is the second year in a row I've contributed to Bombers Broadside. In this edition's 112 pages of glossy, full color goodness you'll also find editor Cecilia Tan and such familiar names as Mike Carminati, Vince Genarro, Dan Graziano, Derek Jacques, Tara Krieger, Dan McCourt, Sweeney Murti and Pete Palmer. The book will be available on newsstands in the Tri-State area on March 4, and can be ordered directly from the publisher now.

As for what I actually think about whether Clemens used? As skeptical as I am of the Mitchell Report and of Brian McNamee's character, I've had a hard time believing the Clemens camp's protestations from the beginning. Furthermore, every weird turn this case has taken -- from the Mike Wallace softball interview to the taped phone call to Andy Pettitte's admission and testimony to the needles and gauze to the naming of Debbie Clemens to the Rocket's glad-handing up on Capitol Hill to Rusty Hardin's down-home machismo -- has further eroded my confidence in Clemens' version of events. The only major point scored in Clemens' favor since the report's release was the revelation that he was not in fact named in the Jason Grimsley affidavit, contrary to the Los Angeles Times' previous reports.

Which isn't to say that I particularly care whether Clemens used or not. Though his late-career accomplishments certainly fit a pattern not unlike that of America's previous Public Enemy #1, Barry Bonds, I'm more skeptical than ever about what the drugs he allegedly took may have done to his performance. In the context of the hundreds of other players who allegedly used PEDs prior to baseball's beefed-up policy, his case isn't especially remarkable; it's the denials which have amplified the coverage and given the story legs. What's certain is that the public persona of Clemens that has emerged through this saga is even less charming than the one on display throughout his career. And while I have to admit that I'm not really prone to sympathizing with right-wing, redneck bullies, I fear that the cover-up -- if this flurry of activity is indeed covering up for Clemens' misdeeds -- is worse than the crime.

That said, I doubt there will be enough evidence to convict Clemens of perjury, and I find the whole notion that Congress should be involved in this dispute to be patently ridiculous. Henry Waxman, Tom Davis and their colleagues -- particularly my old nemesis Christopher Shays, America's expert at Not Knowing Anything About Anything -- are a bipartisan bunch of camera-hogging assclowns who ought to be doing something more important, like begging their constituents for forgiveness for wasting their time and taxpayer dollars on such relatively trivial matters.

Anyway, as ever I'll try to impart a modicum of reason into the reportage.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


Further Adventures in Bobbleheadhunting

Slowly but surely, I'm settling into my new apartment in Brooklyn, but I've yet to unpack many of my baseball books or knickknacks, including my collection of about 20 bobbleheads. Among those is a special one I've been meaning to write about for over six months.

In the summer of 2006, in anticipation of Tony Gwynn's induction to the Hall of Fame the following year, an employee of the Everett AquaSox of the Northwest League contacted me about a plan to commemorate Gwynn's career with a bobblehead doll. Gwynn never actually played for Everett, but that franchise is the transplanted successor to the Walla Walla Padres club my grandfather took my brother and me to see back in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

By the time I found him playing for Walla Walla in 1981, Gwynn was already a familiar face to me. I'd seen him play basketball for San Diego State University against my hometown University of Utah as part of the annual Western Athletic Conference schedule. Gwynn was the Aztecs' starting point guard (!), and he was a good one, setting school records for assists that still stand and earning all-WAC honors twice. Though he was a late-round pick by the NBA's Clippers, by that point it was clear that baseball was Gwynn's ticket to professional stardom. The Padres chose him in the third round of the 1981 draft and sent him to Walla Walla to start his pro career. He wasn't long for the Northwest League, but he was still there when my brother and I visited our grandparents. He hit .331/.406/.612 with 12 homers and 17 steals in just 42 games before being promoted to Double-A Amarillo, where he hit .462 in 90 at-bats. By the end of the next season, he was a San Diego Padre, and he was still a Padre 3,141 hits later when he retired in 2001.

Anyway, the AquaSox employee had discovered via Google that I'd written about seeing Gwynn, and wrote to ask whether I had any pictures that they could use to find out his uniform number and other details. Though lacking a picture of Gwynn, or any color photos at all, I dig up his number (#3) off an old roster that also lists future major leaguers John Kruk and Greg Booker. Via a bit of supersleuthing though a couple of old programs and a copy of Mark Okkkonen's Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century (a database of which is now online via the Hall of Fame) I discovered that the 1981 Walla Walla team wore the 1979 big club's uniforms. Handing down uniforms to the low minors clubs was still common in those days, and the position of the numbers on the front of the uniform and the piping around "Padres" enabled me to deduce the uniform in question.

As for the finished result of the Gwynn doll, the browns are a bit more reddish than I would have liked to see, but for a run of 1,000 that was apparently hand-detailed, it's not too shabby. Good enough for me to add the title of "Bobblehead Consultant" next to "Sausage Race contestant" on my long and distinguished resume, and good enough for the Gwynn doll to sit next to the Tommy John Bobble-Arm (if not that elusive Jason Tyner) on my mantle.

Now, when are they going to make the damn Luis Sojo bobblehead?

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Saturday, February 09, 2008


Mr. Fantasy Pants

For the third year in a row, I spent countless hours in November and December writing player capsules for Fantasy Baseball Index 2008, a magazine-style fantasy guide that should be making its way to newsstands and Amazon right about now (unexpected perk: my first author credit on Amazon, along with a brief bio).

As with the 2007 edition, I covered the pitchers in both leagues as well as creating staff depth charts for all 30 teams. Nearly 300 hurlers made the cut for the writeups, with projections for another 150 or so included in the alphabetical index. Alas, some of my best (or perhaps funniest) work writing about guys on the fringes wound up on the cutting room floor, but it's tough to complain when those guys have no fantasy relevance whatsoever. "Cow tipping" is the term my BP editor, Christina Kahrl, uses for writing about bad pitchers. It's easy and entertaining, if a bit cruel, to take the time to savage such defenseless beasts.

Anyway, this year's Index contains 829 player capsules with 2008 projections, position-by-position rankings, the FBI signature pullout "Cheat Sheets" with dollar values for 4x4 and 5x5 single and mixed leagues, depth charts, and a bunch of good features, including an experts poll, John Sickels on this year's crop of impact rookies and a piece that I wrote on ERA estimators (similar to last year's). The mag goes for $7, which also gets you an electronic update featuring revised projections, depth charts and Cheat Sheets as well as camp notes and analysis at the end of February. Also for sale via the Index store where you can order your copy directly is a separate series of electronic updates that happen on a weekly basis through March; for the third year in a row I'll be doing those as well. Get 'em while you can.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008



Spurred by a reader email, I took a look at where the Mets' newly-minted Johan Santana-Pedro Martinez tandem fit in as far as great duos -- not necessarily in terms of how well they pitched as teammates but rather what they had done or would do over the course of their careers. I measured each pitcher based on his best five seasons according to WARP, a methodology not dissimilar from my JAWS definition of peak (which is seven best), but shortened since Santana's really only got five good seasons to his credit. Here's a taste:
Turning to consideration of the best tandem at the front of a rotation, the new Mets duo represents one of the few pairings of multi-Cy winning pitchers:

10: Roger Clemens (7), Tom Seaver (3)
6: Steve Carlton (4), Bob Gibson (2)
6: Greg Maddux (4), Tom Glavine (2)
5: Pedro Martinez (3), Johan Santana (2)
5: Pedro Martinez (3), Tom Glavine (2) (see Unfiltered)

Held back by the fact that the Cy didn't come about until 1956, that's too short a list to be very interesting, so instead we'll return to those five-year WARP peaks, where it's clear that Martinez and Santana (53.2 and 48.3 WARP by this methodology, for a combined 101.5) can be outdone by numerous other combinations. Strictly eyeballing these so as to save our data department some nightmares, what follows are some notable pairings that top their total.

132.0 (1st): Walter Johnson (81.7), Stan Coveleski (50.3)
122.9 (3rd): Walter Johnson (81.7), Hippo Vaughn (41.2)

The Big Train's dominance of all things WARP helps him top this list with the aid of pitchers nowhere near his stratosphere. After excelling for the Indians for the better part of a decade, Coveleski was traded to the defending world champion Senators (!) prior to the 1925 season and promptly helped them to a second consecutive pennant. The duo spent three years (1925-1927) together. Far shorter was Vaughn's stint with the Senators; it lasted just 12 games in 1912.

128.3 (2nd): Hal Newhouser (66.2), Bob Feller (62.1)
121.9 (4th): Bob Lemon (55.7), Hal Newhouser (66.2)
117.8 (6th): Bob Feller (62.1), Bob Lemon (55.7)
111.2 (11th-T): Hal Newhouser (66.2), Early Wynn (45.0)
107.1 (21st): Bob Feller (62.1), Early Wynn (45.0)

Feller (1936-1956 except for 1942-44), Lemon (1946-58), and Wynn (1949-57) were mainstays of a great Cleveland staff, but it was Newhouser's career-ending stint in Cleveland (1954-1955) which helps them make this list in every permutation but one (Lemon-Wynn, just shy at 100.7). Though he threw only 46 2/3 innings in the Tribe's 111-win season in 1954, Newhouser won seven games and saved seven more. He made just two appearances in 1955 before drawing his release.

118.8 (5th): Roger Clemens (61.8), Tom Seaver (57.0)

This was something of a passing of the torch, as Seaver's last gasp with the 1986 Red Sox allowed him to cross paths with the 23-year-old Clemens during the Rocket's breakout campaign, in which he garnered not only his first Cy Young but the AL MVP award as well.
In all I found 32 pairings that topped Santana-Martinez and one that tied them, but the duo is poised to climb the charts, at least a bit. A 7.7 WARP season from Santana would raise Santana's peak by 0.8, pushing them past the other Mets duo on the list, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, while a 10.4 WARP season from Santana -- equivalent to his average performance since 2004 -- would improve his five-year peak score by 3.6 WARP, moving them into 28th. After that, the climbing will be steeper, because getting beyond the 10.0 WARP level means eating more innings than most pitchers are allowed to nowadays. And no, I don't see Pedro upping his peak score; he'll need more than 9.1 WARP to do so, and he's not that cat anymore. Besides, he'd rather cockfighting.

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Friday, February 01, 2008


Clearing the Bases--Prospects, not PEDs

Writing about steroids in a way that challenges people's assumptions isn't much different from taping a "kick me" sign to your own ass. You can expect to mix it up with a certain percentage of passers-by who are just spoiling for a fight. Some of them are articulate, some laughably not; responding is usually fun, though it certainly helps if I'm in a bit of a pugnacious mood.

But having done enough of that last week, I switched gears for this week's Prospectus Hit and Run. I tied up up a few loose ends by revisiting the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, the close-but-no-cigar crew who topped Jim Rice's 72.2 percent, and correcting myself regarding a slip on David Justice. Finally, I turned my attention to the forthcoming season via a topic I covered in the forthcoming Baseball Prospectus 2008 (which ships February 18), namely the Brewers' abysmal defense:
As I wrote a few months back, the Brewers finished 28th out of 30 teams in Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They were 3.44 percent below average in converting batted balls into outs, a shortcoming that translates to -44.7 runs (every one percent away from average equals 13 runs). A look at the defensive numbers of the infielders suggests that number isn't far out of line. Based on their Fielding Runs Above Average totals and a simple Linear Weights conversion of Baseball Information Solutions' Plus/Minus ratings into runs, the quartet of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun came in a whopping 49 runs below average.

In a tight but winnable division, that simply won't do, so kudos to the Brewers for not sitting on their hands. The recent signing of Mike Cameron to play center field created a domino effect, shifting incumbent Bill Hall, who struggled to hold down the middle pasture, to the hot corner, and Braun, who put up a ghastly .895 fielding percentage, to left field. According to the Davenport fielding numbers, Hall has performed as a league-average third baseman in 84 career games, 59 of them in 2005. Braun, however, is untested in the outfield.

How much will all these moves improve the defense? I set out to do a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation, incorporating 2007 FRAA, Plus/Minus and the new kid on the block, Dan Fox's Simple Fielding Runs...
I did two estimates, one the those numbers, the other using the 2008 PECOTA projections, which account for multiple years of data, player aging patterns, and regression to the mean. Between the two estimates, I bracketed the defensive improvements as worth between 1.5 and four wins, something that should comfort my Brewer-loving in-laws.

• • •

Elsewhere at BP, yesterday was a big day, as Kevin Goldstein published our Top 100 Prospect list, then submitted to a full afternoon of interrogation. Topping the list is Cincinnati center fielder Jay Bruce, and the Reds can also boast pitcher Homer Bailey (#), first baseman Joey Votto (21), and pitcher Johnny Cueto (41). That's a nice bit of high-end talent, but nobody can touch the Rays, who have five of the top 25 prospects; their days as the AL East's doormat may be at an end.

The Yankees' Joba Chamberlain comes in ranked an impressive #4, though that won't be enough to appease the nitpickers who sweat Boston's Clay Buchholz being ranked #2. The Yankees placed five kids on the list, the Red Sox seven, but beyond that raw count, it's it's actually a tossup between the two beasts in terms of strength. Boston has the higher-rated player and two in the top 20, but the Yanks have four in the top 50. Ian Kennedy is ranked 34th, outfielders Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata 47th and 48th, respectively, and pitcher Alan Horne 67th (Philip Hughes, in case anybody was wondering, is no longer eligible for the list, having topped 50 innings last year). Beyond Buchholz, the Sox have center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (16), starting pitcher Justin Masterson (53), "shortstop" Jed Lowrie (57), outfielder Ryan Kalish (60), starting pitcher Michael Bowden (95th) and first baseman Lars Anderson (100).

The Dodgers fared well, too. Starter Clayton Kershaw ranks fifth; according to Goldstein he's the early favorite for next year's #1. Third baseman Andy LaRoche is 14th, shortstop Chin-Ling Hu 32nd, and pitcher Scott Elbert 66th. That's solid but not incredibly strong, but when one considers that the system has graduated Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin to the bigs in the last two years, whoa. Goldstein's Top 11 Dodger prospects will be up later today; I'll check back with a link.

• • •

We won't know until this evening whether the deal will become official or not, but the Mets are poised to steal Johan Santana from the Twins. You know it's bad when Baseball America's home page boldly greets you with the headline "Twins Didn't Get Enough."

Of the four prospects headed Minnesota's way, the highest-ranked on BP's list is center fielder Carlos Gomez at #65. He's a toolsy guy with what they call a projectable body, which is to say he causes scouts' hearts to go pitter-patter despite the fact that he has yet to translate his physique into results. As a 21-year-old he was pressed into big-league duty by injuries in the Mets' outfield last year, he hit just .232/.288/.304 in 125 big-league at-bats. As bad as that is, the kid has hit just .278/.336/.399 in four minor-league seasons, and between being overmatched in the bigs and suffering a broken hand, he lost a good bit of development time. PECOTA forecasted a weighted mean equivalent performance of .265/.315/.392 in 2007 (that's translated from wherever he played in the minors); for this year it's .253/.310/.371 -- about 25 OPS points lower. Backwards moving is he.

The deal gets worse for the Twins. Neither pitchers Phillip Humber nor Kevin Mulvey crack BP's Top 100; both are seen as back-of-the rotation guys. Nineteen-year-old pitcher Deolis Guerra ranks 79th, but that's again a function of his projectable body rather than his results to date. After an impressive 2006 as a 17-year-old, he put up a 4.01 ERA and 6.6 K/9 in the Florida State League last year; he'll need to bulk up his repertoire so that he actually misses bats if this deal is to be salvaged for Minny.

Here's what BA's Jim Callis had to say:
Guerra (No. 2), Gomez (No. 3), Mulvey (No. 4) and Humber (No. 7) all ranked prominently on our Mets Top 10 Prospects list. But there’s simply too much risk involved in this deal for Minnesota.

The two best prospects in the trade, Guerra and Gomez, come with high ceilings but also lack a lot of polish and have a long ways to go to reach their potential. The odds that they both will do so are slim.

Guerra has an 89-94 mph fastball and a promising changeup and he’s only 18. But he also has a below-average breaking ball, has yet to pitch more than 90 innings in a season and while he has held his own, he hasn’t dominated. Gomez had the best package of tools in the Mets system, but his bat is still extremely raw...

Mulvey has an arsenal of four average pitches and throws strikes. He’s not overpowering and he’s most likely a No. 4 starter. Since having Tommy John surgery in 2005, Humber hasn’t fully regained the stuff that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft. His curveball is his best pitch but his fastball now sits at 87-91 mph. He too projects as a No. 4 starter.

The Twins have traded Santana for two high-reward but also high-risk prospects, and two back-of-the-rotation starters. They didn’t get a prospect whose combination of ceiling and certainty approaches that of Hughes, whom the Yankees were willing to deal for Santana earlier in the winter. They didn’t get a package comparable to the ones the Red Sox reportedly offered earlier, fronted by either Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester and also containing two solid prospects nearly ready for the majors: righty Justin Masterson and shortstop Jed Lowrie.
BPs Joe Sheehan was none too wild about the haul either, though he did counter some of the conventional wisdom based on the rumors that have floated around all winter:
The package just wasn’t the right one. I’m not going to compare this trade to the long-rumored and varying offers that were reportedly on the table at varying times this winter, because I’ve come around to the idea that what’s actually offered and what gets reported are two wildly different things. We can’t compare an actual trade to rumors. However, evaluating this deal in a vacuum, we see that it adds just one position player of note, one with some major flaws and who wouldn’t be one of the top ten prospects at his position in the game. The rest of the deal is mid-rotation pitching prospects.

There are mitigating circumstances here that must be noted. Santana forced Bill Smith’s hand by threatening to invoke his no-trade clause, which would have ended all talks and forced the Twins to either sign Santana or lose him at the end of the year for nothing. With the Twins looking up at the Tigers and Indians in the division, and the Red Sox and Yankees in the league, it didn’t seem reasonable to keep him in a push for success in 2008, and the Twins have never acted like signing Santana was a reasonable option for them. With Santana pointing the gun, apparently wishing to have his 2008 status settled right now, Smith had little choice but to make a deal. This trade does little for me, but when positioned as “one year of Johan Santana or this trade,” it’s a bit more defensible... Blame Bill Smith for the deal that he did make, but save a little ire for Terry Ryan, whose decision three years ago [to grant Santana the no-trade clause] set these events in motion.
What's really funny is that I spent nearly six years at a design studio with a boss named Bill Smith. Didn't know much about baseball; the story goes that when he was taken to a game, he brought magazines to read and asked when halftime was. Possibly more legend than fact, but good for a punchline in this context.

Mainly I'm relieved that the Yanks didn't give up Hughes to get Santana, and that they won't have to face him in what would have been an insanely stacked Red Sox rotation. If it goes through, the Mets are a solid bet to finish the job they botched last year and take the NL East, though I really think the Braves, with a full season of Mark Teixeira and continued development of their young nucleus (Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Jeff Francoeur) will be a continued threat (Philly's lack of pitching will doom them).

Anyway, I've got more links to share, but that's enough blogging for one entry.

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