8.29.2005

Cain you believe it? Plus Tucker's draft pick, redux

The justice system works in mysterious ways: with one of their few remaining challenges, the defense dropped me off of the jury (and I still don't see why, there were other potential jurists left who I thought were more questionable than I was for an attempted murder, assault, and robbery trial) and freed me to catch up on all the work that I had missed while sitting around doing nothing much but contributing to the justice system - the Constitution wins! :^) So I am free to comment on a few items briefly during my lunchtime.

Cain is here, Best time of year (this year at least)

Wow, Cain has been raised (that is Matt Cain has been promoted) to the major leagues and will start for your 2005 San Francisco Giants Monday, in place of Tomko. Now we get to see our Wunderkind shortly after saying good-bye to our 2003 Wunderkind, Jesse Foppert, in the Randy Winn trade. And, I assume, perfect timing, facing the poster-child for on the road ineptitude, Colorado, almost a run A GAME behind the 2nd worse scoring team on the road, the Astros, out of 30 MLB teams. Nice way to boost your prospect's confidence, have him face the worse scoring team by a mile (though things would backfire if they actually did score on him, so it could go both ways I suppose, but at least the odds are in his favor).

Following the rotation, assuming they don't move him back a day to avoid one team or another or to allow another starter a start (Tomko takes on Ponson role and face nasties?), he will get a total of 7 starts if he started every 5th game from today's game: COL (H; 1st worse in MLB playing on road in runs scored); ARI (R; 10th worse playing at home); Cubs (H; 10th worse); SD (H; 6th best); WAS (R; 8th worse); COL (R; 5th best); ARI (H; 15th best). Not too bad overall, poor offenses on the whole plus he will be challenged by SD in SBC and COL in Colorado.

And if they slip him one game after the Cubs game, then he avoids SD in SF and instead faces LAD (H; 13th worse); WAS (R; 8th worse); SD (R; 2nd worse); ARI (H; 15th best). But then he would avoid any strong offensive test, dropping 2 best scoring offense for 2 worse scoring offenses. However, it would also avoid throwing him into Colorado for a start, where pitcher's egos get squished like bugs on a windshield. So the Giants may as well start Tomko one game during the SD series and push Cain into facing the weaker offenses instead. If he is as good as advertised, he should be able to do well against the weaker opponents, then we hope that Schmidt and Lowry can take on the better teams, at least for those of us still hoping for some good showing this season and haven't given up on the season.

I know that there are people against bringing up Cain - starts his major league time served clock, takes away an option - but I am jazzed about this. We get to see how he does, and there is some question on how he will do since he has not been sterling in his time in AAA, walking a ton, though at least also striking out more than a ton. Things change in the majors, though, better fielders, better catcher calling pitches, better coaching, so you never know. Brandon Webb did not have as good a career minor stats as Jerome Williams or Dontrelle Willis but he's probably been as good as (Willis) or better (Williams). So you never know.

And for Tomko, who don't quite understand why he was dropped from the rotation, here's some numbers: 5.14 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 11 strikeouts in 21.0 IP in the last month. Pitchers who are doing that poorly, especially when they are suppose to be ramping it up in the second half of the season, are key candidates for getting dropped from the rotation, whether a team driving for the playoffs or a team with a bad record. Too bad Texas had to screw up our waiver for Tomko by claiming him, the Giants should screw around with their waivers as payback for that. Else we could have traded Tomko for an nice prospect.

Too bad the Giants didn't do it before the deadline - I was all for trading Tomko for a prospect, to get some value for him before he goes free agent on us and demands $7M/year (like Ponson and Benson got).

Tucker Draft Pick Controversy Revisited

Now that Tucker has been traded, his signing and loss of a draft pick has been transformed a little. The player we got, Kelvin Pichardo (are the Giants now the only team with Kelvin's? I recall that we have another player with that first name and I find that name to be rare), is now part of the equation. Now the Giants have used the $1M+ bonus for their 2004 1st round draft pick to have Tucker for about a little over a year and a half, where he performed about as expected, except that his OBP was higher than expected in 2004, when he was playing regularly, plus we now have a pitching prospect, Kelvin Pichardo.

He is a 19 year old RHP (soon to turn 20 after the season ends), in his second season in the Gulf Coast League (rookie league). He had a good first season, going 5-5, 2.79 ERA in 58.0 IP, only 41 hits and 15 walks with 62 strikeouts and 5 homers, for a WHIP of 0.97 and K rate over 9 per 9 IP in 12 games/11 starts. He fell back a little this season, going 3-2, 4.17 ERA in 54.0 IP, 59 hits and 3 (only!) walks with 37 strikeouts and 4 homers, WHIP of 1.15 and K/9 rate of 6.2 in 10 games/9 starts.

From reading from a few sites, he seems to have a power arm but is blessed with the maturity and ability to throw strikes and not walk very many batters, as well as not give up many homers or hits. And he's been able to keep the hitters off balance enough to not give up a lot of hits, though he did a better job of it last season than this, but at least his increase in hits was nearly matched by his decrease in walks. You can't teach a pitcher to not walk batters (see Erick Threets) so I am very encouraged by his ability to do this at such a young age.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that "there is no such thing as a pitching prospect," but he is no throw away either - with development he could turn out to be a good reliever or perhaps even a middle of the rotation guy (given his K-shortage this season, else I would think the possibility of being a top of the rotation guy).

So that begs the question, was it better to sign Tucker and end up with Pichardo as your prospect or would it have been better to keep the draft pick. Based on the draft picks right after the Royals pick (including their pick), most are still in the minors, most are in A-ball, high-A ball, or AA-ball, as would be expected of college ballplayers, which many of them were. Two players are not playing this year, not sure if injury or what. One player of the 10 following picks have made the majors, JP Howell but it was for the Royals (ironically enough, the pitcher they picked using the Giants pick is still in A-ball) and another made AAA - they were both college students though so should be expected to be at higher levels.

Of the players who were in high school, and therefore most comparable to Pichardo, one is in A-ball short season, one is in A-ball, and two are in high-A, so all of them are above Pichardo at the moment. Obviously most did better at lower levels before advancing to their current level, but they were also arguably doing better at their current higher level than Pichardo did at a much lower level, rookie ball.

But, as noted, no sucha thing as a pitching prospect, so for now Pichardo is comparable to the other players immediately drafted after the Giants draft pick, though obviously behind. The other players, even of a similar age, are more advanced than he is right now. But his command is so strong that I don't think we can say yet whether the other players were better picks in terms of major league usability, especially since he is only 20 years old and still has many more years to develop into something useful.

Meanwhile, Tucker was very handy last season, especially after Jeffrey Hammonds imploded again, and played better than expected for the team, especially to those who pointed at his road stats and pronounced him unfit for major league hitting. As I explained in an article for SFDugout.com, that was mainly because of the pitching oriented stadiums in the Central Division, particularly the Tigers, that did his road numbers in. And he was a nice backup this year as well, not great but for how the team was doing, he was doing alright. Plus now we get a nice prospect, with some hint of ability that could be developed (his low HR rate and low walk rate).

Of course, if you really want to feel the pain, Huston Street was picked by the A's 11 picks after the Giants pick. But even the A's didn't see him as such a sure thing, they picked two other players before they picked Street, Landon Powell 24th and Danny Putnam 36th, so there were 15 picks in-between Powell and Street that a team could have selected Street but did not. Lucky for the A's, nobody did.

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