Saturday, May 29, 2010

Springfield Grille and the Soft Shell Crab Incident

On Friday we had to return a tricycle to a 10-year old girl in Butler (don't ask), so on the way home I asked DB~ if she wanted to try Springfield Grille in Adams Township off Route 228. It's one of my personal favorites, but she had not had the pleasure yet.

We got there at 7:30 pm and still had to wait 15 minutes for a table -- it looked like all of Treesdale decided to dine out here tonight. The interior of the restaurant reminds me of a warm hunting lodge. The walls are all deep mahogany or cherry wood, the ceilings are pressed tin, and the paintings tell the tale of sailing your boat or hunting animals for the most part (we had a huge mounted elk above our table).

The basic cooking philosophy of the Springfield Grille is "If we can fit it on our grill, we'll cook it", especially if it was something that was walking around just 6 hours ago. They are known for their steaks and chops, but they have a nice selection of seafood...perfect for DB~ who is not a fan of the red meat.

I went with a very boring choice of 10 oz. strip steak and a loaded mashed potato (bacon, sour cream, cheese). But DB~ went off the grid to the specials and selected a Soft Shell Crab crusted in cashews and served on a bed of coconut rice pilaf. Now, we've been together nearly 18 months....I sort of know the tendencies of DB~. She doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would enjoy chomping down on the claws, body, and eyes of a crab. Especially with it being served kind of looking at her. I asked if she ever had one before and her response was "Yes, I know I've had one in the past at some point". OK...I think the lure of the coconut rice pilaf temporarily short-circuited her synapses, but this should be entertaining....

Sure enough it came out and I could see that she was unsure how to tackle this object staring back at her. I saw some tentative scoops of rice around it and a poke of the fork to make sure it wouldn't bite her back. DB~ tried a claw and said it tasted great and then I watched her surgically peel back the soft shell to do an exploratory search of the crab's insides. All the while, I'm practically using laser precision to carve my steak apart and put it in the cake cruncher. I was looking around the restaurant and checking things out, when I slowly see DB~ reach for the ever-present iPhone. She has it set on this frequency that only dogs can hear, I think, so I'm not surprised to see her check texts periodically. But I caught her and she sort of laughed so I asked what she was looking at. With a little cajoling, I got out of her that she was on to figure out How To Eat a Soft Shell Crab!

This was too good to keep to ourselves, so of course the next time our server (Roz -- very perky and pleasant, if you go to Springfield Grille ask for her!) came over I shared this factoid with her. All three of us had a good laugh at that. She assured DB~ that you eat the whole crab...the whole kit and kaboodle.

The rest of the dinner consisted of me cleaning my plates to the point that they didn't need to wash them and DB~ eating all of her rice and pushing the remants of the crab's body around the plate to make it look like she ate it.

On the way home, she started to over-analyze the taste of the crab in her mouth and practically used all the toothpaste in the tube while brushing her teeth. The best part is that she still tries to convince me that she ate one before!

We will go back to Springfield Grille, probably in the fall/winter (it just feels more like that season of restaurant)....out of soft shell crab season.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Timing the prospect waves

The Rule 4 MLB draft is less than 2 weeks away and it seems as if things are coming into focus a little more clearly.

Unless the Pirates are playing things real close to the vest, it seems as if the 3 choices on their plate (assuming Harper goes to the Nats, as presumed) are:

Drew Pomeranz LHP - Ole Miss
Manny Machado SS - HS in Florida
Jameson Taillon RHP - HS, Woodlands, TEX

I've contended that the Pirates front office, specifically Neal Huntington and Greg Smith, want no parts of drafting a HS pitcher early in the first round and committing upwards of $6-8M. They are very comfortable cherry-picking guys in the later rounds who were "tough signs" out of high school and getting them for $1-2M. Plus, NH has made some comments on radio shows about wondering how a HS kid can square up on Taillon's high-90's fastball.

So in my mind, the Pirates are deciding between Pomeranz and Machado.

Pomeranz sits in the 90-93 mph range with his fastball, has a high 70's curveball said to be his out pitch, and an average changeup at this point. He has a fantastic K rate, but a so-so BB rate. To me, he could be a #2 pitcher.

Machado got an unfair "Alex Rodriguez" comp about a month ago....a lazy comp because they are both of Latin descent and from Florida. He is said to have the range and actions to stay at SS with moderate power and average speed.

In my mind, though, I would take Pomeranz because you can line him up with our current talent wave getting ready to crest in Pittsburgh. I believe, as do most rational Pirate fans, that our future for the next 6 years will start and end with the success of Pedro Alvarez. Thanks to gaming his clock in 2010, we will have his services from 2011 to 2016 before Emperor Boras whisks him off to a big market city upon free agency.

If Pomeranz is selected, he can start 2011 in A+ and get to AA by the end of the year. A tune-up and arb gaming session in 2012 in AAA and...voila! June 2012 he can be on the mound. At that time, Pedro will be rounding into shape in his 2nd full year. Cutch-22 will be in his last pre-arb year. Tabata will be patrolling the OF, Lincoln will be in the rotation along with Bryan Morris, and Walker will be super-subbing all over the place. It's not hard to imagine that with a bonus prospect making the jump and/or a well-timed free agent signing that the Pirates could be on the edge of the wild card.

Meanwhile, if you draft Machado in 2010, here's his timetable:

2011 - Low A
2012 - High A
2013 - Double A
2014 - Triple A
2015 - Majors

By that time, you are breaking a rookie SS into a lineup with Cutch-22 in his last arb year (possibly his last in PGH) and Alvarez one year behind him. You are not taking advantage to the fullest of Cutch-22 and Alvarez's time together due to the extra development time needed.

Machado may have the higher upside, but Pomeranz is forecasted to be decent in his own right. Plus, he will get here quicker.

All that said - it seems as if the Pirates are leaning towards Machado.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Franklin Inn - a penny saved is a penny to spend on a chimicanga

Last Friday, neither DB~ nor I felt like painting the town red. We wanted a nice quiet night as we had a busy Saturday ahead of us. I floated the idea of "Mexican?" and it was embraced by DB~. It's not her go-to food and neither is Asian, so if I get the green light, I'm hitting the hole like a running back off right guard.

Reflexively, we both sort of thought about Mad Mex, but then I brought up the Franklin Inn in Franklin Park. It's one of those places you've probably driven by a bunch of times and wondered if it's any good.

It is. Very good. I'm a fan because the preparation is slightly more Mexican in authenticity than Mad Mex. I love Mad Mex, but it is hipster Mexican. As opposed to Yo Rita, which is pretentious Mexican.

Anywho...on a Friday night, all of Franklin Park Borough and the surrounding environs go to the Franklin Inn it seems. We had a 45 minute wait, but we amused ourselves in the bar with a round of Dos Equis for me and Miller Lite (very Mexican) for DB~.

The inside of the Franklin Inn was re-done a few years ago and it is brightly colored inside. The restaurant, on a side note, was used as a location for the horrible trainwreck of a movie known as Dogma (starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck from the 90's).

The standard complimentary salsa with their chips has a bit of a kick to it. Very refreshing change from the bland tomato-y salsas you typically get.

For dinner, I went with a combo platter of 3 different entrees, albeit at smaller portions. I had the chicken chimicanga, the chicken burrito, and the ground beef enchilda. My two sides were the standard Mexican rice you see out and pinto beans.

DB~ loves her quesadillas...this time building a chicken, cheese, tomato, onion one. It was the large dinner size and she was only able to eat half of it. The other half went in my stomach on Monday at lunch. Via my esophagus of course...I haven't learned to eat via osmosis. Yet.

It's always a good meal at the Franklin Inn on Rochester Road. Definitely worth the drive. Especially if you like a good margarita served out of a mason jar.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills - the white elephant in the room

I mentioned my disdain for the Pittsburgh Mills in an earlier post about the "re-imagining of Pittsburgh" and how it was an example of poor planning and the need for land development to be done on a county level. This seemed like a good time to expound on exactly why this development bothers me so acutely and why I will never go to it.

Back in the early 2000's, the plans for a regional "destination" shopping center were announced. It was to be built in Frazer Township, which left everyone who didn't live within 5 miles of the border of Frazer Township scrambling to find a map to see where Frazer Township was. Turns out it's up Route 28 north of Fox Chapel, but before New Kensington. This mall, situated on 340 acres of green space, would have 1.1 million square feet of space when completed.

Now my opinion, and one shared by every other land use professional, is that you only need to add regional destination centers if you have a corresponding increase in population to justify it. Back in the early 2000's, the Pittsburgh metro area did not have that increase (and only today is experiencing the tiniest of bounce backs). This specific area along 28 did not have any hints of a growing population to justify such a mall, either. So instantly, I was against this idea on the basis that it would siphon revenue away from existing malls in its vicinity such as Ross Park, Waterworks, and even Monroeville Mall.

In essence, it would be playing the shell game with competing consumer dollars.

Then as 2003 came around, more news about the mall and its environmental impacts became public. It would be impacting multiple acres of prime wetlands (wetlands act as nature's filtering kidneys) and would require significant infrastructure improvements at its entrance and exit with Route 28. Why again did we need this mall? Well, at least the Texas-based developer was promising a range of stores and restaurants that would be unique to the Pittsburgh region. The mall and the site preparation were under construction in 2004 with a June'ish 2005 opening date scheduled.

It was then publicized that the Pittsburgh Mills would be receiving Tax Increment Financing (TIF) through Allegheny County and Frazer Township. For those that don't know, a TIF is a way for developers to offset their costs way down the line by scamming local governments. A TIF projects what the local and county governments will receive in taxes during the post-development of the project and subtracts off what the land is worth pre-development in taxes. The difference is the Tax Increment to be financed. But the kicker is that the developer can pay back the debt first until it is paid off; the local and county governments don't reap the tax benefits until the debt is paid --- they continue to get the pre-development revenues. For the Mills, the TIF was $50 million dollars. The idea is sound as long as the development is successful.

Uh oh.

Shortly before the Pittsburgh Mills was scheduled to open, the Texas developer (The Mills Group) declared bankruptcy. The developer was purchased by Johnstown-based developers, the Zamias Group. The Zamias group is not really known for their vision; they are standard strip mall developers and not fancy ones at that.

The mall itself cost $226 million dollars to construct with another $62 million in site prep costs. Among those costs:
$21.7M for the interchange improvements to Route 28 (ramps and such)
$9.3M for roads in the development and within Frazer
$7.1M for design fees
$2.6M for the land costs
$1.4M for offsite utilities
$16.3M for onsite utilities
$0.8M for environmental work (2.89 ac of replacement wetlands and 11,000 LF of stream work)
$3M for field office costs

And that $50M TIF for a $285M project? It was larger than any TIF in recent Allegheny County history for a commercial development. The Waterfront was $29.4M ($305M total cost), The Mall at Robinson was $28M ($245M total), and Mt. Nebo Pointe was $6.8M ($44M total).

Many of the scheduled tenants lured by the Mills either vanished into thin air or pulled out of their leases. Today, the destination mall that would have stores unique to the Pittsburgh area, has the following roster of stores unlike any you will find in the Pittsburgh region, such as:
JC Penney's, Macy's, Sears, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Lowe's, Spencer's (stay classy Pittsburgh), Hallmark, American Eagle, Hot Topic, Dress Barn, and Victoria's Secret among others.

It also has not one, not two, but three Hair Salons, 2 Nail Salons, and 2 Massage Parlors. Probably from when you get a stiff neck looking at all the vacant storefronts in this disaster.

But maybe it has restaurants to make up for the fact the stores are bland/generic stores....

Olive Garden, Applebee's, Chili's, Eat N Park, Red Robin, and a little coffee place from Seattle called Starbucks.

At a seminar in 2008, Allegheny County Economic Development officials used the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (current name) as a successful case study, if you can believe it. They anticipated $452M of total revenue, with $10.4M of Sales Tax. Suffice it to say, they're a little short.

The latest attempt to roll this beached whale back into the ocean involves the building of a year round water theme park, similar to the kind constructed in Erie. Who knows if it will help revive this monstrosity of a symbol to greed, poor planning, and short-sightedness.

The humorous/redeeming part to this story is that it forced Ross Park Mall to re-evaluate and re-invent itself. In recent years, Ross Park Mall has become the upscale destination mall with stores unique to the Pittsburgh region. In other words...exactly what the Mills was supposed to be. Stores such as Nordstrom's, Kate Spade, Burberry, LL Bean, Apple (coming soon) and restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen (soon) have revitalized this North Hills mall.

Just because a space has green grass growing on it, does not mean it needs a mall -- no matter what size -- parked on it. Think about that the next time you're driving up Route 28 on your way to get a Starbucks at the Mills.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pirates Bullpen - the Meek shall inherit the closer's job

Is it strange that I am comforted once the Pirates' starter goes OUT of the game? Anyone else?
For all of the kvetching in the off-season about the Pirates (gasp) spending money on a portion of the team, the bullpen, it appears to have been a good investment.

Aside from an inning or two in a blowout game (yes...I know those count), Hanrahan and Dotel have been very solid, Hanrahan bordering on dominant. But one pitcher is not bordering on dominant, he IS dominant and that's Evan Meek.

Evan Meek was NH's first foray into the Rule 5 draft...the unwashed masses from another team's farm system....available to all in a draft order for a mere $50,000. His 2008, the season where you attempt to do everything you can to hide a Rule 5 guy including phantom trips to the DL, was atrocious.

2008 6.92 ERA/1.77 WHIP, 13 IP, 4.85 K/9, 8.31 BB/9, .231 BAA -- (91.2 mph FB)

He didn't trust his stuff. In 2009, he went to the minors and came back for an encore. It was very encouraging, a nice progression....

2009 3.45 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 47 IP, 8.04 K/9, 5.55 BB/9, .204 BAA -- (93.2 mph FB)

He improved and, hey maybe, he could be a nice setup guy one day. The walks were still a little troubling and his velocity was quite what it was made out to be pre-Rule 5. And then 2010 started....

2010 0.82 ERA/0.95 WHIP, 22 IP, 9.00 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, .195 BAA -- (94.7 mph FB)

The walks have been drastically cut down in his three seasons and his fastball has increased dramatically. Even better this year has been his curveball....Fangraphs has it as his best pitch, tracking at 4.77 wins above average for every 100 thrown. That's rarified air for a pitch. Consider that Tim Lincecum's changeup is the highest rated at 5.67 wins/100.

I love Meek, Hanrahan, Dotel as the 7th, 8th, 9th inning guys, but I would love to see the order reversed to Dotel, Hanrahan, and Meek by the end of the year. Perhaps in 2011, even if Dotel's option is picked up, that will be the case.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reviewing the DBS Top 30 - one month in

Thought with one month in the books that I would take a look at the ol' DBS Top 30 and see how the boys are doing....

Here's the lists with my pre-season comments (at the bottom of the linked page). Listed below is the player and their BAA/OBP/SLG with OPS in parentheses. For pitchers, I'm listing their ERA/WHIP, IP, H, BB, K.

1. P. Alvarez 3B AAA -- .256/.343/.504 (847). Pedro has been heating up in May and is on track to come up in June once the gaming of his service clock is complete.

2. B. Lincoln RHP AAA -- 3.83 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 42 IP, 40 H, 11 BB, 29 K. Lincoln is not the strikout king we hoped he would be, but he could be a very solid #3 or even a borderline #2 if the changeup develops. Also on track for June to Pittsburgh.

3. J. Tabata OF AAA -- .326/.388/.432 (820). Yet another player who should be sometime in June once the arb gaming is done with him. He is also 17 for 19 in SB's and has yet to commit an error.

4. T. Sanchez C A+ -- .307/.419/.515 (934). Sanchez is showing, even with a cold start to his May, that he does not belong in A+. It's time to promote him to Altoona and continue his development. A shoulder injury slowed him down, which may be why they want him in Bradenton for defensive work.

5. T. Alderson RHP AA -- 6.14 ERA/1.67 WHIP, 29 IP, 41 H, 8 BB, 21 K's. Some eyebrows were raised when Alderson went back to AA, but it seems warranted. His velo is down in the mid 80's still and he is very hittable.

6. C. d'Arnaud SS AA -- .205/.275/.308 (583). Easily, for me, the biggest disappointment to date for Pirate prospects. He has simply not gotten on track at AA yet at any point. He and Alderson would drop quite a few spots in a re-ranking right now.

7. R. Owens LHP AA -- 3.74 ERA/1.01 WHIP, 33 IP, 28 H, 6 BB, 37 K's. He's the anti-Alderson. While he sits in the high 80's/low 90's, he has a strikeout pitch and is staying off the fat parts of the plate.

8. S. Marte OF A+ -- .283/.374/.391 (765). Marte, along with most of the Bradenton hitters, has slumped badly in May. However, I still stand by that he should be promoted soon to Altoona.

9. R. Uviedo RHP AA -- 2.81 ERA/0.88 WHIP, 16 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 19 K's. Uviedo is a bullpen guy now, so I would drop him a few slots, but he effectively doing his job and is putting himself in line for a promotion later this year to AAA.

10. Z. Von Rosenburg RHP -- yet to pitch this year. ZVR will hopefully debut in Low A West Virginia very soon, but he may touch State College for a start or two.

11. J. Locke LHP A+ --3.15 ERA/1.15 WHIP, 34 IP, 32 H, 7 BB, 30 K's. Locke was another surprise non-promotion. However, he is certainly pitching as if he wants to go up to AA.

12. C. Cain LHP -- yet to pitch this year, but he is also batting a pre-season back injury. May be on a slower path than ZVR this year, as a result.

13. Q. Miller RHP A -- 1.50 ERA/1.00 WHIP, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K's. What was described as "minor bicep tendonitis, should miss 1-2 starts" has stretched into over 1 month off. Not a good sign.

14. R. Grossman OF A+ -- .245/.351/.330 (681). Never a good sign when your OBP is higher than your slugging. Grossman has slumped badly in May, but he has still been K'ing a bunch and not hitting for power. Not much growth in his second full year.

15. G. Hernandez OF AA -- .214/.287/.231 (518). Quite simply, Gorkys is overmatched. He has nothing redeeming about this season. The Shelby Ford of 2010.

16. N. Walker 2B AAA -- .320/.385/.578 (963). What a breakout for Walker. Anytime he wants to come up to PGH and kick Iwamura/Young off this team is fine by me.

17. B. Pounders RHP -- yet to pitch this year. That's surprising considering he got a nice workload in GCL last year. Should go to Low A soon.

18. J. Cunningham 3B A -- .275/.298/.349 (647 OPS). Sort of a mixed bag for Cunningham. Good to see him back healthy and making contact, but he has a 2 BB/22 K ratio this year and is hitting for little XB power.

19. V. Black RHP -- yet to pitch this year, due to an injury. Was supposed to be debuting "soon" 2 weeks ago.

20. D. Moreno RHP A+ -- 0.44 ERA/0.39 WHIP, 20 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 30 K's. No, none of those are misprints or typos. Moreno is simply dominating A+ and needs to be moved up to Altoona 2 weeks ago.

21. N. Pereira LHP -- released before the season. Whoops.

22. B. Holt SS/2B A+ -- .351/.404/.495 (899). His May slowdown has not been as dramatic as the others. I can't see him going anywhere this year, with Harrison, d'Arnaud, and Mercer all ahead of him at AA.

23. B. Friday SS/2B AAA -- .241/.337/.322 (659). Looks like just another no-bat middle infielder for the Pirates. Maybe a utility guy.

24. Z. Dodson LHP -- yet to pitch, may be in GCL or SS when they start.

25. N. Adcock RHP A+ -- 3.34 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 32 IP, 33 H, 7 BB, 34 K's. Having a very nice solid season. Could be a back of the rotation starter.

26. B. Morris RHP A+ -- 0.66 ERA/0.96 WHIP, 40 IP, 34 H, 8 BB, 36 K's. Welcome back to prospect land, Mr. Morris. On a 26 IP scoreless streak...would be nice if he were moved up to Altoona, I think.

27. T. Boleska RHP A+ -- 5.51 ERA/1.10 WHIP, 16 IP, 16 H, 2 BB, 16 K's. Not much to really say here. Probably won't stay on the next DBS Top 30, but he is still an interesting bullpen arm.

28. H. Strickland RHP A -- 5.45 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 38 IP, 49 H, 8 BB, 12 K's. The lack of K's is bothersome, he's way too hittable also. Disappointed greatly.

29. B. Lorin RHP -- yet to pitch due to pre-season injury. Really needs to come back in July and show something.

30. J. Mercer 3B AA -- .269/.341/.407 (748). Mercer has greatly cooled as well, but he continues to draw more walks than in his previous portions of his career, which is encouraging.

All prospect lists are fluid, as this pre-season list shows. Some of these guys are playing their way off the list, especially with the 2010 draft around the corner. I'll check back in July or so with another update.

Monday, May 10, 2010

HS Hitters v. COL Hitters - 1st round 2000-2005

I took a look at the HS pitchers versus the COL pitchers in an earlier post, so I thought for completeness sake I would look at things from the hitting side, too.

Again, this is the very scientific question of "Is this guy successful or not, yes or no?"

Executive Summary
13 out of 42 HS picks were a YES (30.6%)
14 out of 42 COL picks were a YES (33%)

Again, the difference is so small that the common thought that a college bat is the safer of the 4 food groups of prospects is not really true.

To tie it all together....
College Pitchers YES - 25.4%
HS Pitchers YES - 30.3%
College Hitters YES - 33%
HS Hitters YES - 30.6%

1-1 A. Gonzalez FLA [HS] - YES
1-3 L. Montanez CHI [HS] - NO
1-6 R. Baldelli TB [HS] - YES
1-11 D. Krynzel MIL [HS] - NO
1-12 J. Borchard CWS - NO
1-13 S. Boyd STL - NO
1-15 C. Utley PHI - YES
1-18 M. Negron TOR [HS] - NO
1-23 D. Espinosa CIN [HS] - NO
1-25 S. Heard TEX [HS] - NO
1-26 C. Smith CLE [HS] - NO
1-28 D. Parrish NYY - NO
1-30 S. Thorman ATL [HS] - NO
2/9 HS
1/4 COL

1-1 J. Mauer MIN [HS] - YES
1-5 M. Texeira TEX - YES
1-10 C. Burke HOU - NO
1-13 C. Kotchman LAA - NO
1-14 J. Gautreau SD - NO
1-15 G. Gross TOR - NO
1-19 M. Fontenot BAL - NO
1-23 JF Griffin NYY - NO
1-25 B. Crosby OAK - NO
1-29 J. Burres ATL [HS] - NO
1/2 HS
1/8 COL

1-2 BJ Upton TB [HS] - YES
1-7 P. Fielder MIL [HS] - YES
1-8 S. Moore DET [HS] - NO
1-10 D. Meyer TEX - NO
1-11 J. Hermida FLA [HS] - NO
1-13 K. Greene SD - YES
1-14 R. Adams TOR - NO
1-16 N. Swisher OAK - YES
1-19 J. Loney LAD [HS] - YES
1-20 D. Span MIN [HS] - YES
1-23 J. Francoeur ATL [HS] - YES
1-26 J. McCurdy OAK - NO
1-27 S. Santos ARI [HS] - NO
* J. Mayberry did not sign
5/8 HS
2/5 COL

1-1 D. Young TB [HS] - NO
1-2 R. Weeks MIL - YES
1-5 C. Lubanski KC [HS] - NO
1-6 R. Harvey CHI [HS] - NO
1-7 N. Markakis BAL - YES
1-10 I. Stewart COL [HS] - YES
1-11 R. Aubrey CLE - NO
1-12 L. Milledge NYM [HS] - NO
1-13 A. Hill TOR - YES
1-15 B. Anderson CWS - NO
1-17 D. Murphy BOS - NO
1-18 B. Snyder CLE - NO
1-19 C. Jackson ARI - YES
1-21 M. Moses MIN [HS] - NO
1-23 B. Wood LAA [HS] - NO
1-26 B. Snyder OAK - NO
1-27 E. Duncan NYY [HS] - NO
1-28 D. Barton STL [HS] - NO
1-29 C. Quentin ARI - YES
1-30 M. Maier KC - NO
1/9 HS
5/11 COL

1-1 M. Bush SD [HS] - NO
1-9 C. Nelson COL [HS] - NO
1-11 N. Walker PIT [HS] - NO
1-14 B. Butler KC [HS] - YES
1-15 S. Drew ARI - YES
1-18 J. Fields CHW - NO
1-20 T. Plouffe MIN [HS] - NO
1-21 G. Golson PHI [HS] - NO
1-24 L. Powell OAK - NO
1-26 R. Robnett OAK - NO
1-28 B. Dewitt LAD [HS] - NO
1/7 HS
1/4 COL

1-1 J. Upton ARI [HS] - YES
1-2 A. Gordon KC - NO
1-3 J. Clement SEA - NO
1-4 R. Zimmerman WAS - YES
1-5 R. Braun MIL - YES
1-7 T. Tulowitski COL - YES
1-10 C. Maybin DET [HS] - NO
1-11 A. McCutchen PIT [HS] - YES
1-12 J. Bruce CIN [HS] - NO
1-13 B. Snyder BAL [HS] - NO
1-14 T. Crowe CLE - NO
1-17 CJ Henry NYY [HS] - NO
1-19 J. Mayberry TEX - NO
1-21 C. Pennington OAK - NO
1-23 J. Ellsbury BOS - YES
1-28 C. Rasmus STL [HS] - YES
1-30 T. Greene STL - NO
3/7 HS
4/10 COL

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2005 1st round draft - one for the ages?

Going into the 2005 draft, it was said to be a deep draft. Even at the time, people were touting the impact talent throughout. It was heavy in HS hitters, especially CF's, and college 3B. It's fair, 5 years later, to look back and evaluate things a bit. At the end in bold, I've included their accumulated WAR to date in the majors. The age in parentheses in their 2010 season age.

1-1 J. Upton ARI (22) - Said to be a few levels above his brother, BJ (drafted 1-2 in 2002 by TB), Justin got off to a slow start in Low A in 2006 (756 OPS). But pretty much after that year, he has been in beast mode since. He's 22 and he's a power hitting RF that just signed a long-term deal with ARI. 5.4 WAR

1-2 A. Gordon KC (26) - Next to Upton, he was the prize of the draft. A cornerstone 3B that would stay at the position. He has been beset by injuries and is back in the minors at age 26, after a lackluster career in the majors, and switched to LF. 4.5 WAR

1-3 J. Clement SEA (26) - Hey, I know that name! SEA thought they had a power hitting C for the next decade. They got a guy who may be a AAAA hitter with knees that make him a 1B/DH. Which is a problem considering the Pirates are in the NL. -0.3 WAR

1-4 R. Zimmerman WAS (25) - I consistently underrate Zimmerman and I should stop that one of these days. He plays near Gold-Glove defense and is good for high 20's/low 30's in HR's. He is owning the WAR from this class so far, especially since he got at least 1 year jump on everyone else to the majors. 20.2 WAR

1-5 R. Braun MIL (26) - It was soon realized that Braun had an iron glove and he was switched in the minors to LF. No matter, his bat plays at any position and he's good on the bases as well. Personality wise he needs a punch in the face. 13.8 WAR

1-6 R. Romero TOR (25) - For a while this was looking like a huge fail on TOR's part, especially with Tulowitzki taken right after them and TOR with a gaping hole at SS at the time. But in 2009, Romero finally established himself in the rotation and he should be good from here out. 3.9 WAR

1-7 T. Tulowitzki COL (25) - Natural leader at the most key position of SS. Good with the stick, great with the glove. Great choice. 11.6 WAR

1-8 W. Townsend TB (27) - Wade did not sign the year before with BAL. The rumor is that the TB front office was dead split on either Townsend or Andrew McCutchen. Thanks, TB...we're even from the Upton v. Bullington fiasco in 2002. Had arm troubles, thanks to his alma mater -- the arm shredding university of Rice. Never made the majors and out of baseball. 0 WAR.

1-9 M. Pelfrey NYM (26) - Pelfrey scuffled a little bit, but he is establishing himself as a solid mid-rotation option in the tough market of NY. 5.8 WAR

1-10 C. Maybin DET (23) - Little run of HS CF's here...Maybin was supposed to be pure power, with a wee problem of K's, but that was glossed over by everyone (except me). He was traded to FLA for Cabrera and rushed to the majors. It's hurt his development, IMO. 1.1 WAR

1-11 A. McCutchen PIT (23) - Sweet science...did Littlefield actually do something right? Cutch-22 has exceeded even my expectations to date. He could very well put down a 20 HR/40 SB season this year at 23. That's what analysts squinted and predicted his peak would be at age 28. I hope he stays a Pirate his whole career -- my first true favorite Pirate since the early 90's. 4.1 WAR

1-12 J. Bruce CIN (23) - Supposed to be a huge slugger and would always move to RF. To date, he's had some contact problems in the majors with a low average and high K's. He should be fine long-term. 3.1 WAR

1-13 B. Snyder BAL (23) - Ahhh...lucky 13. You had to try to not make a good pick in this draft, but it was kind of acknowledged at the time that BAL did not. High school Catchers are the toughest picks. The large majority do not stay there and if they have to move, either the bat isn't good or the mobility is lacking. Snyder moved from C to 3B to 1B. He's doing OK, but has still not tasted the majors. 0 WAR

1-14 T. Crowe CLE (26) - CLE went with a college CF and it hasn't worked out. There was a weird experiment mid-stream to make Crowe a 2B, but that was short-lived. He will be a bust, as he only tasted the majors last year. 0.1 WAR

1-15 L. Broadway CWS (26) - College "pitchability" pitcher (read: Fastball sucks). He's a middle reliever now with the Mets. 0.6 WAR

1-16 C. Volstad FLA (23) - I always love the tall pitchers that don't have blazing fastballs. It's just such a weird juxtaposition. Volstad will be a solid mid to back end starter for the foreseeable future. 2.0 WAR

1-17 C. Henry NYY (24) - Busted out and left baseball. Went to Kansas U. to play basketball with his stud brother. Absolute miss. 0 WAR.

1-18 C. Carillo SD (26) - He's been operated on already and is in AAA this year, but there's not much to get excited about. -0.7 WAR

1-19 J. Mayberry TEX (26) - College OF who doesn't hit well enough to be a ML-starter. May be a reserve outfielder, now with PHI. -0.3 WAR

1-20 M. Pawelek CHI (23) - Had conditioning and attitude issues. If he's not out of baseball by now, he will be soon. 0 WAR

1-21 C. Pennington OAK (26) - Scrappy college middle infielder. Of COURSE he was going to get drafted by Billy Beane and Oakland. He is an acceptable option until he hits arb and starts to become expensive. 1.0 WAR

1-22 A. Thompson FLA (23) - Still struggling to get out of AA, now with the Nats. 0 WAR

1-23 J. Ellsbury BOS (26) - Great value for BOS near the end of the first round. Scrappy college CF with movie star looks. A touch overrated as a player in the majors. 8.2 WAR

1-24 B. Bogusevic HOU (26) - Was awful as a pitcher, but he "Ankieled" himself into a good hitter with power. He is in AAA waiting to get recognized by the animatronic GM known as Ed Wade. 0 WAR

1-25 M. Garza MIN (26) - Geez oh man...I don't know what to say here. Total steal by the Twins. And then an even bigger steal by TB to get him in a trade for the terrible Delmon Young. What a beast master. 9.3 WAR

1-26 C. Hansen BOS (26) - Another familiar name to Pirates fans. NH had his 2005 draft guide out in full effect, I guess. Supposed to be a quick-ascent closer type, but he had injury problems and never developed right. Career in jeopardy with neck issues. -0.4 WAR

1-27 J. Devine ATL (26) - Another guy who was supposed to help a bullpen soon. Injuries...ineffective...yada yada. 1.2 WAR

1-28 C. Rasmus STL (23) - Someone will have to tell me how he slid this far. Small HS? Great speed-power combo, but I don't like his K rate long term. 3.6 WAR

1-29 J. Marceaux FLA (26) - FLA lost a lot of Type A free agents and had a ton of 1st round picks as a result. This one won't work out. 0 WAR

1-30 T. Greene STL (26) - He's made the majors, but is nothing great now or in the future. -0.2 WAR

So there you terms of getting people to the majors, this was a successful draft (23 out of 30, with maybe 1-2 more soon). The total WAR to date for this 1st round is 97.6 WAR. Cutch-22, even with being 3 years younger than most of those ahead of him in WAR, is still the 9th highest in WAR totals to date. I expect him to improve on that total.

This was a fantastic draft, with some real cornerstones. It has lived up to the hype so far.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Geocaching - a high tech treasure hunt

My love of delicious roadside meats is what led me to meeting DB~, but it was our mutual love of geocaching that got us together for our first "not-a-date" get-together.

My friend was delivering campaign signs in Oct 2008 and asked if I could help him. I agreed on one condition...if we saw a delicious roadside BBQ stand, the kind where a guy is cooking something that was walking around a few hours ago (preferably in a carved up 55 gallon drum), we had to stop for lunch. My demands were met.

One of our first early morning stops was to his friend's house...for purposes of this blog, she is known as DB~. As the two of them talked, I quietly observed that she had 10 Garmin E-Trex units laying about her living room. I asked if she cached, as the Garmin E-Trex is the go-to unit for geocaching. She did and we agreed to meet up a few weeks later. The rest is...well, history is being written. And the historian is happy.

As for geocaching itself, what is it? Geocaching uses hand-held GPS units, like the Garmin E-Trex (only around $99), to locate hidden objects by a worldwide group of users. You go to Geocaching's home page and download latitude/longitude coordinates for your home area...or an area that you may be vacationing/travelling for work.
You're able to use the GPS unit for this type of activity thanks to the military de-militarizing the geosynchronous satellites orbiting above our heads in the late 90's. Some tech guys pounced on this opportunity and created geocaching in the late 90's/early 00's. It has exploded in popularity in the decade since.

Once you get these coordinates, you program them into the GPS unit and you track the location to its endpoint. The majority of caches are in woods, so it provides great exercise as you track these down. A growing number are urban caches...usually smaller containers that you may only have room to sign your name to a log sheet.

Once you locate the cache, you sign the log sheet and if it is big enough, you search through the contents. Most of the time it is worthless trinkets. But as I say, it's not the "there", it's the "getting there". Some caches do have additional challenges associated with them....another step you have to complete and some do have more valuable types of prizes (geocoins, travel bugs).

After you locate it, you then sign it in on Geocaching's homepage for all the world to see your conquest. Caching is a great way to get out of the house, get some exercise, and it's a great activity to do with the whole family. Or your hot, yet tech-y, girlfriend.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Promote or not to promote - Grossman, Latimore, Marte

System-wide, the Pirates have a large number of prospects off to fantastic starts. By my estimate 27 could enter into at least a semi-serious discussion of "Should we promote this guy up the chain?"

I'd like to take a look at 3 of our OF prospects in this post: Robbie Grossman, Quincy Latimore, and Starling Marte.

Robbie Grossman is our 6th round pick from 2008, who we snatched up in the 6th (2nd round talent grade) because other clubs thought he was "unsignable" away from Texas. Well, if you work a kid for a summer and ask if he would like $1,000,000...he's signable.

Grossman came with a lot of fanfare and hype, due to that being NH's first draft and high-end HS talent was a rarity around these here parts. Last year, as a 19 year old in Low A, he survived but not thrived and posted a .266/.373/.355 triple slash line. He drew walks at over a 15% rate, but he had an unsustainable K rate of 36%. Plus, as you can see by the weak .355 SLG (and wretched 0.089 isolated power), there was not a lot of power (even doubles power) with only 5 HR's and 21 2B's. His defense was well-respected and he did steal 35 bases, though.

This year in High A, as a 20 year old, Grossman is off to a .309/.443/.418 start (861 OPS). His BB rate is just under 20% and his K rate is around 25%...still too high for someone that doesn't have a lot of power. He only has 3 2B's and 1 HR so far, (.109 isolated) but he also has 5 SB's. Essentially, he's putting up the same season as last year, but the numbers are buoyed by his high batting average.

My personal assessment is that I see no reason to promote Grossman this year. He is young for the level and seems to be a one-rung-at-a-time guy. It will interesting to see him progress. If he is still a low power, high SB guy (contrary to the projection of him having 20 HR's), I wonder where he will fit in Pittsburgh. His K rate is troubling, too, but he has other things to fall back on: his ability to walk, his defense, and his ability to steal.

Next up is one Quincy Latimore - a remnant from the atrocious 2007 draft put together one last time by David Littlefield and Friends. When not styling his hair with gel, DL drafted the exceptionally raw Latimore in the 4th round...a complete overdraft.

Last year, as a 20 year old in Low A, Latimore put up some counting stats that made a lot of people swoon -- 24 doubles, 10 triples, and 11 home runs. But his triple slash line of .251/.295/.411 (706 OPS) told a different story. Yes, the isolated power of .160 is very nice, but his BB rate of 5% and his K rate of just under 25% were not. It tells the story of being taken advantage of as you climb the ladder by better pitchers with better offspeed stuff.

And how does a player with 10 triples only steal 3 bases and be caught stealing 3 times? His defense in LF (13 errors, I believe) also left something to be desired. I very boldly have let my feelings be known that I did not consider Latimore to be a prospect, much to the dismay of some fellow OBN posters.

This year, as a 21 year old in High A, Latimore started off like a house on fire, but came back to earth somewhat by the end of April. He still put up a nice .298/.333/.476 (809 OPS) line to date. But he is also rocking the same 5% BB rate and 25% K rate as last year (and has zero stolen bases to boot). In essence, like Grossman, he is putting up the same season as last year but his hot start masks it somewhat.

Latimore is also a guy to keep at A+ all year and I still do not consider him a prospect, yet. Unlike Grossman, Latimore can not really rely on getting on base, stealing a base, or playing good defense. I fear he will crater at AA next year.

Last but certainly not least is Starling Marte. Marte is a very rare breed, thought to be extinct....he is a successful international free agent signed under the watch of Dave Littlefield. Last year, Marte exploded onto the scene with Low A as a 20 year old to the tune of a .312/.377/.439 (815 OPS). The isolated power was an acceptable .127, the stolen base count of 24 out of 31 attempts was sweet, and the reports of having one of (if not the most) the strongest arms in the system was fantastic. In short, he's on the fast track.

And out of the gate in 2010, as an age appropriate 21 year old in High A (with Grossman and Latimore...what an OF), he has not disappointed. He is at .345/.448/.473 so far (921 OPS) with 6 steals. He has yet to hit a HR, but many feel that it is only a matter of time before that aspect of his game develops. He struck out a touch too much last year, but so far this year he has a 10% BB rate and a 25% K rate.

Unlike Grossman and Latimore, I would promote Marte up the chain to AA Altoona.
Marte has better contact skills than either, has the SB speed, and the best defense of all 3. He needs to be challenged. At this point, I would consider him to be the top OF prospect in the system, even ahead of Jose Tabata...slightly bold statement considering they are the same age and Tabata is at AAA. I just feel like Marte is an untapped vessel still and Tabata may never develop the 25 HR power projected for him. Marte's defense and arm are better than Tabata's as well, plus he is a lean athlete...Tabata has a thick lower half, although he is very well conditioned this year.

I suspect that with the weather warming up and some players ready to leave Extended Spring Training, plus promotions to Pittsburgh soon, you will start to see the promotions up the chain of the minors. I hope Marte is one of the first to move.