Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zack Wheeler for Beltran: Too much?

7 interesting links... (my psychology + trade commentary at the bottom):

"His upside, which he could still be 3-4 years from reaching, is as a very good No. 2 starter and maybe even an ace for stretches of time."

If the trade goes through, looks like Sandy Alderson wasn't as pliable as he was in the past, when, as the Oakland A's GM, he traded (in 1997), free-agent-to-be Mark McGwire to the Cardinals for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein. (Who?) That was Alderson's last trade with the A's.

Wheeler seems like he's the real deal: 

1. Wheeler's Psychology

2 Youtube interviews with Wheeler: and They're kind of funny, but only if you think they are.

Baseball Analyst's interview with Zack on draft day here:

In the interview, he said he models himself after Carlos Zambrano (Career ERA: 3.58, not bad...)
BA: Thanks a lot for taking the time to talking us today. You’re obviously one of the top prep pitchers eligible for the draft, and it’s been said you’re a lock to be a first round pick. Where will you be on draft day and who will you be watching with?

Wheeler: I’m going to be up at a place called Stars and Stripes. They’ve got bowling and everything, some big screen TV’s, it’s like a family hangout. That’s where I’ll be watching it. I’m going to have friends, old coaches, current coaches, family…that’s about it.
Hold on. He's talking about Stars and Stripes? A bowling-alley, arcade-laden, family-friendly hangout? Zack might be the Tebow of baseball.
BA: What’s your greatest strength as a pitcher? Something you’re really proud about?
Wheeler: I think my mound mentality. If something goes wrong behind me I just keep on pitching, you know, try to get more outs – don’t try let anything get to me really. I think that’s a good strong key to have.
The "mental resolve" answer: always good. He knows he has the pitches, and he's confident about executing. I like this man already.

2. Raw Stats - Let's balance the psychology with some stats:

Baseball Reference: Zack was #55 prospect overall in 2011:

Here's his up-to-date stats on the San Jose Giants:

Amazin' Avenue notes that Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America have Wheeler as the #35 (BA) and #36 (BP) prospect in America.

3. Minor League Guru, John Sickels 

Zack's a solid B grade player -- and that hasn't changed since the pre-season. A "B" grade means that the prospect has "a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role."


(5 Days ago):

4. Adam Foster of Project Prospect scouted him May 23, 2011.

He says Zack has two plus pitches: "91-94 MPH fastball with hard, sharp-bending tail" and "72-78 MPH curveball has elite, two-plane break and is a no-doubt swing-and-miss offering." He has a below-average "82-84 MPH changeup" that could get to a little above average. He also has a "mechanical inefficiency" that has plagued pitchers like Jarrod Parker and Jeremy Hellickson before, and which could portend arm injuries. (Hellickson right now has a 3.27 ERA and 1.15 WHIP).

5. Splashing Pumpkins

FanGraphs estimate Peak WAR for Wheeler is 5. "He's got the ability to induce groundballs (63% GB rate), which in addition to his strikeout rate, makes him extremely valuable."

In contrast, Beltran's career WAR is 60.2, and in 2011 his WAR has been 3.6 so far in 2011. 

6.  A Small Salve

If you want to feel better about the trade, what about reading how poorly Wheeler did in one start in 2010? "In just 2.2 miserable innings, Wheeler gave up six hits, six earned runs, three bases on balls, two wild pitches, and a hit by pitch."

7. But the future! 

From Bay City Ball: one major risk in the future is that "[not] just that Wheeler will become an excellent starting pitcher, but that the Giants will have no ability to reduce the overall cost of their rotation in the next few seasons." Doom scenario. His post reminds me about how we gave up Liriano and Nathan for some hot-headed catcher...

Oh, and follow Zack Wheeler at: @Wheelerpro45.

Bonus: the Present with Beltran

Let's say we face Atlanta or the Phillies in the playoffs. Beltran to the rescue!

"The switch-hitting outfielder owns a remarkable .351 lifetime batting average (26-for-74) with four home runs and 17 RBIs against Hudson. Beltran also is a respectable 2-for-8 off Venters, though that’s not a representative sample size. There’s also no denying that Beltran has trouble with Lowe (.225, 9-for-40), Jurrjens (.182, 4-for-22) and Hanson (0-for-10).

Beltran has succeeded against Halladay (.333, 14-for-42, two homers, 10 RBIs) and Hamels (.278, three homers, five RBIs). Lee (.125, 1-for-8) has given him problems. But Beltran loves to face Ryan Madson, Phladelphia’s top set-up reliever (.429 9-for-21, four homers, six RBIs)."

(He's apparently also 88% on his stolen base percentage. Wow.)
Personal Thoughts

Personally, I love prospects. Love following them, love seeing them succeed. I have to admit, I didn't know much about Wheeler before the trade rumors, but he's the archetypal minor league stud: #1 on the minors' organizational depth chart, pegged as the cheap, high-value youngster in 2013 to baited breath. I loved seeing Bamgarner's first ever start -- 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, and 76 pitches thrown -- so it's sad knowing I won't see Zack.

It's strange how fandom works; within seconds of hearing about the trade, I've gone from hoping Wheeler is an perennial All-Star to hoping he flames out in the minors as the (now) the 2nd-best prospect in the Met's system. The complete 180-degree turn has nothing to do with the kid's character, poise, or talent. He's just on a different team. It's natural out-group bias: We can't help but develop an irrational hatred or negativity towards dissimilar groups. Sometimes the divisions are deep rooted -- Sunni and Shiite, white and black, Chinese and Japanese -- but as often they're arbitrary, like dividing a group of summer campers into the Eagles and the Rattlers. And then there's baseball.

Sports is the only realm where the in-group out-group switch occurs so drastically. In most cases, it's impossible to jump ship and be embraced. (Although, switching allegiances from China to Taiwan? Hmmm...) But in sports, it happens all the time. It's immediate gratification at its finest: when only the win-loss column matters, the transfer of skills is paramount.

And on the Beltran - Wheeler trade (which hasn't even been finalized yet): I hate to see a prospect like Wheeler go, because of his HoF potential. But I'm trading this might for another might: the Giants winning another World Series.  After the Phillies shellacking us last night with Zito on the mound and some guy named Worley (Who? Where did he come from? Are you telling me the Phillies have 5 aces now???) 3-hitting us, I realize I can't rely on another pixie-dust WS run this post-season.

And it was magical. Seriously: Cody Ross was our MVP. Sure, I can see Huff upping his production and Keppinger maybe making a difference (and OK, Belt might get more comfortable as time goes on) this season, but I really, really, really do not want the Panda as the only over-.800 OPS hitter on our team. Heck, I'd trade some more of our farm system, maybe Neal or Peguero, to get Cuddyer (maybe) or Upton (in my dreams). Because with Beltran, I still think our offense is below-average. What's to prevent teams from just pitching around him when he gets super hot?

I'm in the win-now camp: I've lived in SF for 16 years, and the taste of the championship parade last year has left me hungry for more. Let's just hope our postseason doesn't end with him called out looking on strikes.

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