Sunday, February 15, 2009

Johnson Mentoring

Speaking of mentoring young players, which I wrote about Roberts in my last post, Randy Johnson has come to the Giants looking to mentor our young pitchers, as reported in the Sacramento Bee the other day, after Johnson's first appearance in front of Giants fans at the FanFest last weekend.

"I'm not going to preach to these guys," Johnson said, "but I'm willing to help anybody that wants help."

Here is some other interesting information from his press conference:
And it was the formerly tight-lipped Johnson who mesmerized reporters with his illuminating thoughts during a fascinating 26-minute news conference that needed only three questions and a follow-up.

The Big Unit pulled back the curtain to reveal the Big Talker. He spoke about the intangibles he'd bring to the Giants. He got choked up, and his eyes welled when he spoke of missing his father, who passed away in 1992. And the 6-foot-10 Livermore product talked about coming full circle, both in life and his career, which will culminate in Cooperstown.

"My ability and my skills may have diminished," Johnson said, "but my edge and my will to win have not."

Think Tim Lincecum, who grew up in Seattle watching Johnson pull the national pastime off life support, couldn't use a fireside chat or five (one for each of Johnson's Cy Youngs) on how to handle the trappings of such success?

"It's going to be awesome," said Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young king.

What's truly awesome is Johnson paying it forward.

As a wild, young flame-thrower, he bent the ears of some of the game's greatest power pitchers, from Warren Spahn to Nolan Ryan to Bob Gibson to Tom Seaver.

Giants Thoughts

This is something like what the Giants were hoping from Matt Morris, and Matt Cain did learn some things from him. But he was never a fireballing pitcher like Johnson. And Johnson also spoke with some of the greats of the past, Spahn, Ryan, Gibson, Seaver. You rarely hear Bob Gibson's name anymore, he disappeared off the radar after he retired, so Johnson must have seeked him out.

In addition, he's a lefty and thus would have some appropriate hand-sided tips to pass on to fellow fireballing lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. He could pay off on his salary without throwing a pitch if he can impart any lessons to Sanchez and Bumgarner that they can take and be more productive going forward.

Furthermore, since Johnson has changed from a fireballer to more of a pitcher in recent years, he might also have some words of advice that Cain, Lincecum, and Zito can learn from. Particularly Zito since we still have him for another 5 years, $100M+. But Cain is also a tip or two away from improving from a good starter to an elite starter, which Lincecum was last season. He made a leap in 2008 by pitching as well on the road as he did at home previously. Hopefully he can take another leap in 2009.


  1. You know when you might start discussing the Giants' plan for the draft? Haven't heard much out of anyone yet.

  2. Sorry Matt, but I don't have any knowledge of the upcoming draft myself so I can only report what I find out there on the internet. All I'm sure of right now is that Stephen Strasburg (college player) is the consensus #1 talent for 2009 (though if money gets in the way, he could fall) who is an ace in the making.

    Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be falling to us at pick #6.

    Now that you asked, I ran across an early College Top 20 at Project Prospect:

    After RHP Strasburg, there are RHP Alex White, CF Duskin Ackley, RHP Kyle Gibson, and SS Grant Green in their Top 5.

    But you never know how far a player could rise. Evan Longoria was once ranked by Baseball America as the 10th best talent in the draft at that point (year we selected Bumgarner with our #10 pick) but did so well he rose to, if I recall right, being selected third overall.

    Nor how far a player could drop. Reportedly, if I recall right, Brandon Crawford was seen by some as a Top 10 overall pick but fell to us in the 4th round last draft.

    Given our need for position players in CF and SS, thus Duskin Ackley and Grant Green are probably our most interesting college prospects to watch out for right now.

    On the High School front, BA reported on the MLB's Urban Youth Academy's third annual SoCal Invitational showcase, an event for local high school prospects. Catcher Cameron Garfield and OF Austin Wilson stood out, and SS Jiovanni Mier (12th in BA's Top 100 HS players) and 3B Matt Davidson (16th) also lived up to their lofty ranking, among others. However, Wilson was one of only two 2010 graduates invited, so he's not available for us in 2009's draft.

    More on the UYA from the MLB:

    BA also reported on the Under Armour Preseason Tournament Top 10:

    It was mostly pitchers who excelled, though. Ronnie Mitchell OF, Carlos Leal C, and Breck Ashdown 1B/RHP were the position players in the top 5 there.

    Some more BA High School info:

    Top SS for the 2009 draft is Deven Marrero, who has plus defense and arm strength. Brian Goodwin is a Top 10 prospect and is an OF.

  3. I really appreciate your ability to break down numbers Martin, so I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I'm newer to in depth sabermetric analysis so I'm probably missing something here, but it looks to me like Velez made some progress with the bat last year and nobody seemed to notice. Everyone seems set that Sandoval has a legitimate bat because of what he did in August and September. But Velez's numbers look almost as good to me. Obviously, Pablo did it in the minors too, so it makes it look less flukey. So just wanted your opinion on Velez's second half numbers and why people buy into Pablo and not Eugenio.

  4. Thanks Bobo. I don't do really in-depth sabermetric analysis, I think Chris's Bay City Ball does a better job of that. But I can easily explain Sandoval over Velez.

    There are a number of reasons that I see why Sandoval is getting all the love and Velez isn't.

    First of all, Sandoval dominated his leagues while only 22 years old while Velez was 26 and doing OK. Velez is at an age where he should be getting an advantage over pitchers because of his experience and skills, whereas Sandoval still has a learning curve and yet out hit Velez totally.

    Second of all, Sandoval is expected to be slightly below average, maybe average eventually, defensively at C, 3B and 1B, whereas Velez is expected to be very poor defensively at any position he plays, though 2B appears to be the least worse of all the positions. Thus, any offensive advantage Velez may have, and frankly I don't think he has one as his power isn't as good as Sandoval, but taking the devil's advocate position that Velez is better than Sandoval offensively (again, unlikely), that advantage would most probably be negated by Velez's defensive play.

    Taking a sabermetric view, Velez's strikeouts are much too high for the few walks he does get, making his offensive contribution much more tied to his SLG than his OBP.

    But his power is not that great either, certainly not HR power, though he has OK doubles and triples power. With only so-so strikeout rates, his batting average will rarely be that good, which reduces his OBP and SLG, plus his main value is getting on base and using his fabulous speed. As the saying goes, you can't steal 1B.

    Sandoval, on the other hand, has almost always had a good strikeout rate in the minors, making his low walks more tolerable than Velez because he should hit for a higher batting average than Velez and thus for a better OBP and SLG.

    In addition, because he can hit more homers than Velez, his OPS should also be much higher as well as SLG.

    To boot, Sandoval's only 23 next season with plenty of projected growth to come, while Velez is probably at the peak of what he can do for us, as he will be 27 for the 2009 season.

    Likewise, Sandoval appears able to play 3B, which we don't have any young players competing for right now, whereas Velez is in a battle for 2B with Frandsen and Burriss.

    I think Frandsen will win and Burriss will continue to work on his SS skills in Fresno, while Velez is the utility guy, though with Uribe and Aurilia around, not sure if there is enough bench space, given his limited defensive capabilities; we might end up trading him to the A's, they seem to like our cast-offs, particularly speedsters like Rajai Davis and Ben Copeland. However, if the Giants somehow is able to remove Roberts (DFA?), then the five bench spots would be Holm, Schierholtz, Aurilia and Uribe, with Velez most likely for the last spot, with Bowker, who still has options, going to AAA and working on things.

    Not sure if Velez has any more options, but if he does (I think he's out) then he could also go back to AAA and work on things too.

  5. Sorry, also, about your question on second half goodness, yes, both did it late in 2008, but Sandoval has been showing better skills at a younger age than Velez has at similar minor league levels.

    Ultimately, though, I think it is their defensively abilities that makes Sandoval the great prospect to be, while Velez is in the background. Sandoval can hit well enough to make up for defensive shortcomings, whereas Velez has not shown such a skill and doesn't look like he will get much better defensively. That he is much younger makes him that much more shinier a prospect, that he has a good strikeout rate (i.e. contact rate) makes him all that much better, that he can hit for significant power over Velez is the whip cream on top of the tasty prospect morsel that is Pablo.

  6. Thanks Martin. I think since last year was the first time I ever really paid attention to Velez, I forget how old he is. Because of his physique and speed, I think I keep fooling myself that he is 22 or 23 as well. Being 27 this year, it seems a bit late for us to hoping he does much more "developing"

  7. Found some more info on the next draft.

    "Biggest strength of this draft is college pitching, so you'll see a lot of those guys (led by Stephen Strasburg) go in the top half of the first round. The college position guys aren't as good as the high school group, though Southern California SS Grant Green and North Carolina 1B/OF Dustin Ackley will be the first two taken...

    I don't see a bat like that in this year's HS crop--Hosmers don't come around often. The best position player is Donavan Tate, but he's a five-tool outfielder who's not nearly the devastating hitter Hosmer was...

    Ackley is the best pure hitter in college baseball. Green is no slouch either, and has a little more power. Throw in the fact that Green is a SS, and he has more upside. Both guys are studs.

    [If draft held today, picks 1-5] My personal list (not trying to match players to teams) would be, in order: Strasburg, Green, Ackley, North Carolina RHP Alex White and give me Aaron Crow over Tate.

    [If draft held today, top 5 HS hitters] In order, OF Donavan Tate (Cartersville, Ga.), C Luke Bailey (LaGrange, Ga.), 3B/1B Bobby Borchering (Fort Myers, Fla.), OF Brian Goodwin (Rocky Mount, N.C.) and SS Jovanni Mier (LaVerne, Calif.). Maddox or Davidson could be among the top five HS hitters to go, though. C Max Stassi (Yuba City, Calif.) and OF Jacob Marisnick (Riverside, Calif.) are two more to keep an eye on. "

    - Jim Callis, BA, ESPN Chat

    OK that should be enough for now. Remember, things WILL change as the season plays out, but these are names to keep an eye out on.

    I thought I would end on a high note:

    Timmy L., San Francisco: Fact or Fiction? The Giants have the best top 4 prospects in baseball.

    Jim Callis: Fact.

    Jordan (Toronto): Inoa or Villalona

    Jim Callis: Villalona.

    OK, last one:

    Jason (sacramento): With the # 6 pick the giants select?????

    Jim Callis: Based on our preseason rankings, the No. 6 prospect in the draft is Aaron Crow. He'd be a fine pick, though I can see the Giants jumping on one of the premium position guys (Grant Green, Dustin Ackley, Donavan Tate) if he somehow got to them.



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