Pre-Draft Farm System Rankings Are Now Live

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All 30 Top Prospect lists are now in the books. They spanned roughly 260,000 words of analysis and opinion regarding roughly 1,500 prospects and the systems they occupy, plus the tool grade components on The Board. Thanks to Kevin Goldstein, Brendan Gawlowski, and Tess Taruskin for their help, to Sean Dolinar for building the tools that allow me to produce these lists with such detail by removing a huge part of the technological burden, and to managing enabler editor Meg Rowley, who edited every word of every list and with whom I’m lucky to share enough pathological traits to make this all possible.

Every word of those write-ups is cemented on The Board’s 2022 Report section, which is now set in stone on the site for future reference. As players are traded and drafted over the next few weeks, or if their Future Value grade changes throughout the rest of the season, those alterations will be found in the 2022 Updated option on the dropdown menu. Players who graduate (i.e. lose rookie eligibility within this season) will move from the 2022 Updated page to the 2022 Graduates page, which already includes the players who have played enough this season to move off the prospect end of things. This is accessible through the Seasonal tab on The Board, though the default for the Seasonal tab at the moment takes you to the Futures Game rosters, so until next week you’ll have to use the dropdown to access the graduates. Read the rest of this entry »


Orioles Co-Hitting Coach Ryan Fuller Meets Players Where They Are

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The Baltimore Orioles have been exceeding expectations this season, and an improved offense is one of the reasons why. Second from the bottom in runs scored last year, the Birds went into yesterday’s off day tied with the Chicago White Sox for seventh-most in the American League. While improved pitching and defense has arguably had a bigger impact, plating more runners has greatly benefitted the team’s fortunes.

Ryan Fuller has played a key role in the offensive uptick. A former University of Connecticut infielder who joined the Orioles organization as a minor league hitting coordinator in 2019, Fuller was promoted to big league co-hitting coach, along with Matt Borgschulte, last November.

In the latest installment of our Talks Hitting series, Fuller discussed the club’s new school meets old school philosophy — and some of the notable players who embrace it — when Baltimore visited Boston earlier this season.

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David Laurila: What is your approach — the Orioles approach — to hitting?

Ryan Fuller: “Organizationally, what we believe in starts with making great swing decisions, swinging at the right pitches in the zone, and taking pitches that aren’t in the zone. If we do that, hard contact is going to come. And if we make hard contact, OPS, scoring runs — whatever metric you want to look at — is going to heighten. Read the rest of this entry »


The Dodgers’ Approach to Hitting Is Unlike Any Other

Los Angeles Dodgers
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The Dodgers have been so good for so long that whatever numbers they put up seem to elicit a blasé response at best. Oh, their 116 wRC+ is good for third in the league? Ho-hum. It’s been that way for a while, and I wouldn’t blame you for not thinking about the Dodgers, or even refusing to. You’d like someone else to seize the throne; after all, baseball is at its best with several contending teams, not select superpowers.

But let me implore you to consider the Dodgers again. The mere fact that they’re great isn’t interesting; it’s how they’re great that is. While the pitching is playing a crucial role, I’m going to focus solely on the hitting, because that’s where this team stands out.

To lay some groundwork: Over at Baseball Savant, there’s a tool called Swing/Take runs, which shows the run value players accrue on pitches in each zone. The distinction goes beyond simple balls and strikes; down-the-middle strikes, for example, correspond to the “Heart” zone, and borderline strikes correspond to the “Shadow” zone.

We can look at these run values by team, too. Quick: what do stellar offenses do against down-the-middle pitches? Crush them, that’s what. To wit, the Yankees have accrued a league-leading 26 runs against such pitches. It makes sense; the Yankees make sense. The Dodgers, however, do not make sense:

It’s not just a quirk from this season: A vast majority of players, and thus teams, are regularly in the red when they swing against seemingly easy pitches. The Yankees are actually an outlier in that regard, and it’s part of why they’ve been successful. But the Dodgers aren’t merely missing out on down-the-middle pitches. Nay, they’re atrocious against them. On the graph, they’re in the same neighborhood as the Nationals, who own the league’s 22nd-best offense by wRC+, and the Athletics, who own the very worst. This is… strange. Read the rest of this entry »


Atlanta Acquires 35th Overall Draft Pick From Royals for Upper-Level Prospects

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Trades for competitive balance round picks happen a couple of times every year. Often, there are a lot of different moving parts involved, which can make it a little harder to nail down what teams think a comp pick is worth — there are so many variables associated with each player that it becomes hard to isolate the weight that the pick is carrying in the trade. Every once in a while, we get trades where one side of the deal is exclusively the comp pick, which makes it a little easier to get a feel for pick’s value. Yesterday, when the Braves acquired the 35th overall pick from the Royals for prospects Drew Waters, Andrew Hoffmann, and CJ Alexander, we had one of those instances.

The pick is the most significant aspect of this trade, but it’s value is more abstract since it not only represents a player, but also the draft flexibility it affords the Braves, as they add the bonus pool space associated with the pick (a shade over $2.2 million) to their pool. While it might seem counterintuitive for the Braves, who have a relatively thin system, to move three pieces for one, this trade feels great for them (not that it’s bad for KC). Atlanta doesn’t need Waters, who is likely carrying the most weight in the deal for the Royals. With everyone now healthy, the team has an everyday right fielder in Ronald Acuña Jr., an everyday center fielder in Michael Harris II, and a left field platoon in Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall, while Guillermo Heredia, the Platonic ideal of a fifth outfielder, can pinch run, make the occasional start for Harris against a lefty, or serve as a late-game defensive upgrade for Duvall/Rosario/Marcell Ozuna. If injury occurs, Atlanta has other ways of moving pieces around to create a better lineup than one that would otherwise heavily feature Waters. Even if you think he’ll eventually be good (more on that in a minute), he was a superfluous in Atlanta. Read the rest of this entry »


The Rays Lose More Top Talent to Injury

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The Rays’ injury tally continued to climb over the weekend as the team added two key parts of its lineup — shortstop Wander Franco and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier — to the injured list. Not to be outdone by the hitters, pitcher Jeffrey Springs joined them after his first game back from a family emergency. If the season ended today, the Rays would be the American League’s second Wild Card team, but five other clubs, including the blazing hot Orioles, are within five games.

Franco’s injury is the most concerning, both in terms of its severity and the resulting loss of production. The team’s franchise player broke his hamate bone on Saturday in the first inning against the Reds while fouling off a 100 mph Hunter Greene fastball. While having a fastball explosive enough to indirectly break bones probably adds to the flame-thrower’s mystique, for Franco, it’s a massive setback, one that comes just a couple of weeks after missing a month with a quad injury. With an expected recovery in the six-to-eight week range, it’s unlikely the Rays will have their shortstop back in the lineup much before September, and any significant setback could end his season.

Year-in and year-out, Tampa prides itself on having one of the deepest rosters in baseball, but replacing Franco is a tall order. Indeed, a few weeks ago, ZiPS actually projected him as the AL player who would be the sixth-hardest to replace due to a theoretical season-ending injury. With a .260/.308/.396 line over 58 games (good for a 104 wRC+), his production has been down compared to his rookie season, but would be considered a massive achievement for any other 21-year-old shortstop. He projected as a five-win player coming into the season, and his play so far hasn’t changed that much; all of our projection systems here anticipated at least a 120 wRC+ the rest of the way, and Franco was underperforming the peripheral estimates of both Statcast’s xStats and ZiPS’ zStats. Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Power Rankings: July 4–10

With the All-Star break right around the corner, a few teams have made surprising charges up the standings. There are at least 10 teams vying for as few as four playoff spots which should make for a second half packed with drama.

A reminder for how these rankings are calculated: first, we take the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), and their starting rotation and bullpen (a 50/50 blend of FIP- and RA9-, weighted by IP share) — and combine them to create an overall team quality metric. New for this year, I’ve opted to include defense as a component, though it’s weighted less heavily than offense and pitching. Some element of team defense is captured by RA9-, but now that FanGraphs has Statcast’s OAA/RAA available on our leaderboards, I’ve chosen to include that as the defensive component for each team. I also add in a factor for “luck,” adjusting a team’s win percentage based on expected win-loss record. The result is a power ranking, which is then presented in tiers below.

Tier 1 – The Best of the Best
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Yankees 61-25 0 120 82 75 8 192 100.0%
Astros 56-29 2 117 88 78 17 190 100.0%
Dodgers 56-29 -3 116 79 83 -2 164 99.8%

The Dodgers just wrapped up an 11-game homestand with 10 wins, including back-to-back sweeps of the Rockies and Cubs, and have built an eight-game lead in the NL West in just a couple of weeks. That’s enough to bump them back into the top tier with the Yankees and Astros. Mookie Betts has shown no ill effects from his rib injury, collecting three home runs last week, including two on Thursday. The pitching staff, meanwhile, allowed four or more runs in a game on Sunday for the first time since June 28. Tony Gonsolin has continued to shine and has made a strong case to make the start for the NL All-Stars in Los Angeles next week.

The Yankees ended up splitting their four-game series against the Red Sox over the weekend, losing the last two games on Saturday and Sunday. Thanks to their huge lead in the AL East, it would be a miracle if anyone caught them, but they have slipped behind the pace of the 2001 Mariners and are now on track to win 115 games this season. They’ll head into the All-Star break with three against the Reds and another three against Boston.

Like the Yankees, the Astros have built such a big lead in their division that they can take their foot off the gas pedal just a bit as they head into the midseason break. To that end, they placed Yordan Alvarez on the IL with hand inflammation that he’s been dealing with since late June. There’s never an ideal time to lose your best hitter, but the upcoming All-Star break will give the AL MVP contender a little extra time to heal, and facing the floundering Angels and A’s before the midsummer pause should help ease the blow to the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »


Sandy Alcantara Is the Game’s Hardest-Working Starter — and One of Its Best

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On the day he was officially named to the National League All-Star team for the second time, Sandy Alcantara continued to roll, underscoring his case to start the All-Star Game for the NL. The 26-year-old righty’s seven shutout innings against the Mets extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings and his run of starts lasting at least seven innings to 12 in a row, the longest in the majors in seven years.

Matching zeroes with Taijuan Walker at Citi Field, Alcantara held the Mets to six hits and one walk while striking out four; the Marlins won 2-0 in 10 innings. The surprise wasn’t that he stifled the Mets so much as it was that he made a comparatively early exit by his high standards. Alcantara’s pitch count of 93 was 10 short of his major league-leading average through his first 17 turns, and was his shortest outing since his 83-pitch start against the Giants on Opening Day. In his last two starts, he’d thrown a career-high 117 pitches in a June 29 complete game against the Cardinals, then 107 in his July 5 follow-up, eight innings of two-hit shutout work against the Angels.

After Sunday’s game, manager Don Mattingly praised Alcantara’s labor-intensive effort, suggesting that he didn’t have his best stuff, particularly when it came to throwing his slider for strikes:

“It was probably one of his best performances from the standpoint where he wasn’t clicking with all his stuff… Today, he had to fight. He didn’t have all his stuff today. Him and [catcher Jacob Stallings] did a nice job of using his stuff and getting through it.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Player’s View: Who Has Been Your Most Influential Teammate?

© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Who has been your most influential teammate? I asked that question to 10 major leaguers — two each from five different teams — and all of the answers came after a moment of thoughtful consideration. Most couldn’t name just one, and there was another common theme that emerged, as well. A combination of appreciation and admiration was genuinely expressed with each and every response.

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Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt. I like to watch just enough video to familiarize myself with the pitcher in terms of his tempo in the stretch, in the windup, his arm slots on different pitches, and maybe his tells on the base paths. Anything past that, I don’t like to watch. Paul has been the most influential, because I trust his assessment of the pitcher and his approach far more than anything I would create on my own. That’s because he keeps it really simple; he keeps it very straightforward. That approach helps him be very successful for his team. Because of that, I’ve learned to understand pitchers — when to open up a little more, when to stay focused on maybe driving the ball back up the middle. Little things like that allow you to be successful over nine innings.”

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Tucker Barnhart, Detroit Tigers

“Four come to mind, and it starts with Skip Schumaker. Skip and I played together in 2014 and 2015, and he was the guy I defaulted to if I had any questions. This was back when I was trying to figure out what the big leagues were like. So, Skip was one of my guys. We still talk. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Mets Top 30 Prospects

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Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the New York Mets. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: John Schreiber Has Changed Since His Detroit Days

John Schreiber has been a find for the Red Sox. Claimed off waivers by Boston from the Detroit Tigers prior to last season, the 28-year-old sidewinder has come out of the bullpen 30 times this year and allowed just 12 hits and two earned runs over 29 innings. Schreiber has 35 strikeouts to go with three saves and a pair of wins in as many decisions.

He’s not the same pitcher who failed to distinguish himself in Detroit.

“I’d mainly been a four-seam/slider guy,” explained Schreiber, who logged a 6.28 ERA over parts of two seasons with the Tigers. “In college and for most of my pro-ball career, that’s all I threw. Two years ago I started working on a better changeup, and last year I started throwing my sinker. Paul Abbott is our Triple-A pitching coach, and he helped me work on a two-seam sinker. I’ve gotten really comfortable throwing that.”

Schreiber still features his old mix prominently — this year he’s thrown 35.3% four-seamers and 35.8% sliders — but his 22.5% sinker usage has added a whole new twist. The 2016, 15th-round draft pick out of the University of Northwestern Ohio is now far less predictable, and just as importantly, he’s better able to match up with hitters who do damage on high heaters. Read the rest of this entry »