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MLB Projected Standings, Week 12

Teams will start hitting 81 games played around this time next week, meaning the actual halfway point of the season is almost here. Pretty soon this model will be more about what has happened than what is about to unfold.

You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses, playoff teams underlined).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 12:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Rangers, 90-72 (+2) 0 GBIndians, 92-70 (+4), 0 GBRed Sox, 89-73 (0), 0 GB
Astros, 86-76 (+3) 4 GBTigers, 83-79 (0), 9 GB     Orioles, 87-75 (+1), 2 GB
Mariners, 81-81 (-2), 9 GBRoyals, 81-81 (+1), 11 GBBlue Jays, 86-76 (-1), 3 GB
Angels, 74-88 (-1), 16 GBWhite Sox, 80-82 (-1), 12 GBYankees, 82-80 (0), 7 GB
Athletics, 72-90 (+1), 18 GB     Twins, 64-98 (+1), 28 GBRays, 75-87 (-4), 14 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Giants, 96-66 (+2), 0 GBCubs, 103-59 (-1), 0 GBNationals, 95-67 (-3), 0 GB
Dodgers, 94-68 (+3), 2 GBCardinals, 88-74 (0), 15 GBMets, 91-71 (-2), 4 GB
Rockies, 75-87 (-1), 21 GB     Pirates, 80-82 (-4), 23 GBMarlins, 84-78 (+2), 11 GB
Diamondbacks, 75-87 (+3), 21 GB    Brewers, 72-90 (-2), 31 GBPhillies, 66-96 (-2), 29 GB
Padres, 70-92 (+2), 26 GBReds, 66-96 (+1), 37 GBBraves, 60-102 (+3), 35 GB

Wild card play-in games: Blue Jays at Orioles, Mets at Dodgers
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Indians, Red Sox vs. Rangers
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Nationals vs. Giants

Some musings:
  • The Astros have 85.5 projected wins and the Blue Jays 86.4, so the Blue Jays hold on to the final AL Wild Card spot for the time being.
  • With that said, nobody is talking about the Astros and everyone should be. They were the favorites in the AL West to start the year, got off to a horrible start, but have turned their season around.
  • The Mariners current scuffle certainly sucks, but the bigger problems they face are the simultaneous rises of both the Rangers and Astros simultaneously. The Mariners are back to being a projected .500 team and honestly haven't strayed much beyond that all season. Meanwhile, the Astros are back to their preseason projection and the Rangers are well beyond what was expected.
  • Misery likes company. For you Mariners fans feeling bad out there, take a look at the Pirates swoon and feel better.

Mariners Order Another Round, Pitch in a Lefty Too

Tom Wilhelmsen, the Bartender
The Mariners added two new arms after another frustrating loss last night - though one of the arms is a very familiar face. They signed RHP Tom Wilhelmsen off the free agent market, and acquired LHP Wade LeBlanc from the Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Wilhelmsen will be in Detroit, but that's probably about it. Bob Dutton has all the gory roster rule details, but long story short Wilhelmsen must go through waivers to get sent down to Tacoma. He is a safe bet to pass through waivers, and once he does he will go down and open up a spot for a new pitcher on Friday, conveniently when the M's need a starter to cover for Taijuan Walker's bum heel. That starter seems likely to be LeBlanc.

Let's start with The Bartender. He was last seen in Safeco wielding a lethal power fastball, knee-buckling curve ball combination. Sometimes he struggled to throw the combination for strikes, but he had enough command to be a solid reliever overall with spectacular hot stretches. Wilhelmsen would easily be a bullpen upgrade if he was the pitcher last seen in Mariners blue.

The problem is that Wilhelmsen imploded in Texas. He gave up dingers on a quarter of his fly balls. He simply got annihilated every time he toed the rubber. Wilhelmsen's fastball velocity has not dropped much but it might be below whatever threshold allows him to be effective. There is a reason the Rangers cut him loose and that he is likely to pass through waivers. Still, Wilhelmsen has a good arm and a track record of success in Seattle. He's had a couple horrific months after six solid years. There are reasons to think this move could work out, and it comes at virtually no risk anyway.

Wade LeBlanc
LeBlanc is new to the Mariners but not new to Jerry DiPoto. He acquired LeBlanc as the Angels GM and now has acquired him again. LeBlanc is hardly a prospect at 31 years old, though he only has 446.2 innings in the majors (about 2 or 3 seasons worth). LeBlanc is a "pitchability" lefty, meaning he does not throw all that hard but makes do with command and deception. In fact, pitch f/x data suggests that LeBlanc's fastball sits in the 86-87mph range, which is rather slow by modern MLB standards. However, LeBlanc has never posted disastrous strikeout rates and is enjoying a terrific season in AAA thus far with an ERA under 2.00 as a starter. Still, LeBlanc is the definition of replacement level, though Safeco might do a nice job of hiding his weaknesses.

Frankly, these are moves that only happen when a team is desperate. The Mariners have a critically crippled pitching staff at the moment, one so crippled that nobody can reasonably complain about a lack of depth. They literally have over half of their pitching staff on the DL. These moves are the MLB equivalent of bailing water out of a sinking ship which is unfortunately what the Mariners need to do in the storm they find themselves in. Still, these are the kinds of players that for whatever reason Jack Zduriencik never acquired, and we watched some positions become black holes over the years. These are the kinds of moves the give teams a chance to whether particularly crushing stretches.

Mariners Acquire Zach Lee

Zach Lee
The Mariners made a minor trade of sorts yesterday, in that it involved minor league players who are sort of prospects but sort of not. Jerry Dipoto shipped INF Chris Taylor to the Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.

The motivation for the move is relatively obvious, at least from the Mariners perspective. The Mariners could really use some starting pitching depth, or pitching depth in general. This is more a function of an inordinate amount of injuries to the pitching staff that leave it dangerously thin than poor planning from the M's front office. Felix Hernandez and Wade Miley are on the DL from the starting rotation, and news just broke that Taijuan Walker is getting an MRI on his foot. In the bullpen Charlie Furbush, Ryan Cook, and Evan Scribner are all yet to make their season debuts. No team suffers that many arm injuries without consequences.

All in all, the Mariners have almost half a pitching staff with significant injury concerns. Furthermore, Jerry Dipoto had to work in the offseason to build pitching depth that was largely ignored and decimated by the end of the Zduriencik era. This is approaching (if not arriving) at a worst-case scenario for how the year could have unfolded for the pitching staff.

So, on some level, Zach Lee fills a need that developed with the way the season unfolded. However, Dipoto announced that Lee will report to AAA Tacoma, meaning he does not fill an immediate need on the 25-man roster.  He also does not fit the profile of a typical stop-gap player. There is a little more to this deal beneath the surface.

Zach Lee, not all that long ago, was an interesting prospect. The Dodgers drafted him in the first round straight out of high school and backed up a Brinks truck to the tune of $5.25 million to sign him away from playing quarterback at LSU. He signed, and the rest is history to some degree. Lee steadily climbed the minor league chain before stalling in AAA where has neither flourished nor floundered. Lee now profiles as a durable innings-eater. He doesn't miss a ton of AAA bats, which suggests he will pitch to even more contact in the majors. However, Lee also does not walk that many batters. One might say he controls the zone. I would sandwich Lee somewhere between Blake Beavan and Doug Fister, for those of us who enjoy comps.

Chris Taylor is sort of a known commodity. I saw him play several times in Tacoma and am sorry to see him go. He has hit too much in AAA to stay as anemic in the majors as he has. Taylor has gap power and just needs to cut down on strikeouts to stick and be a serviceable MLB infielder. He has no amazing tools but relatively few weaknesses as well. Taylor is simply a solid, fundamentally sound baseball player.

This trade is about more than immediate depth though. Zach Lee is almost exactly a year younger than Chris Taylor with about half a season less of MLB experience. Maybe more importantly, only one of his option years is used up. Lee might never become a frontline starter in the M's rotation, but he brings several years of minimal cost-controlled certainty to the team.

If the Mariners really just needed another arm they could have probably found a veteran for cheap. For instance, Mat Latos is in DFA limbo right now after the White Sox removed him from their roster. There were ways to add arms that involved holding on to a guy like Chris Taylor.

So this move isn't just about the injuries to Mariner arms. Zach Lee fits the Dipoto mold. He throws lots of strikes and comes to Seattle with lots of cheap, team-controlled years. I would hazard to guess that Lee has been on the Dipoto's radar for some time but Dipoto was holding out for a better deal that did not involve Chris Taylor. However, the M's current situation might have convinced Dipoto to pull the trigger.

In general, I would rather be the team acquiring a shortstop for a pitcher. However, Lee's extra team-controlled years and the immediate need for pitching depth over infield depth have to be considered. I think the Mariners gave up a better player than they received but they might have acquired the better asset. Lee won't just add depth this season; he adds depth for many seasons to come and he is young enough to still develop a bit.

MLB Projected Standings, Week 11

The trade market should start heating up soon. Who should buy? Who should sell? Who has a tough call to make?

You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 11:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Rangers, 88-74 (+2) 0 GBIndians, 88-74 (-1), 0 GBRed Sox, 89-73 (0), 0 GB
Mariners, 83-79 (-2) 5 GBTigers, 83-79 (0), 5 GB     Blue Jays, 87-75 (+3), 2 GB
Astros, 83-79 (0), 5 GBWhite Sox, 81-81 (0), 7 GBOrioles, 86-76 (-1), 3 GB
Angels, 75-87 (+1), 13 GBRoyals, 80-82 (+2), 8 GBYankees, 82-80 (-1), 7 GB
Athletics, 71-91 (-2), 17 GB     Twins, 63-99 (-3), 25 GBRays, 79-83 (+1), 10 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Giants, 94-68 (+1), 0 GBCubs, 104-58 (-1), 0 GBNationals, 98-64 (+3), 0 GB
Dodgers, 91-71 (-2), 3 GBCardinals, 88-74 (+1), 16 GBMets, 93-69 (-1), 5 GB
Rockies, 76-86 (+2), 18 GB     Pirates, 84-78 (-3), 20 GBMarlins, 82-80 (0), 16 GB
Diamondbacks, 72-90 (0), 22 GB    Brewers, 74-88 (+2), 30 GBPhillies, 68-94 (-2), 30 GB
Padres, 68-94 (-1), 26 GBReds, 65-97 (0), 39 GBBraves, 57-105 (+1), 41 GB

Wild card play-in games: Orioles at Blue Jays, Dodgers at Mets
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Red Sox, Rangers vs. Indians
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Giants vs. Nationals

Some musings:
  • The Pirates have lost 3 games on their projected record in back to back weeks. They are on a serious slide that will knock them out of contention if they do not pull out of it very soon. They might already be out of contention with the way this week went.
  • The Mariners have also sunk in consecutive weaks, but thanks to they hyper-mediocre AL wild card race remain in the hunt. My model might be overestimating their plunge too, given that they are going through the best the AL has to offer on their longest road trip of the year. This would be a logical low point for the team.
  • The model might finally be giving up on the Dodgers to some degree. They continue to be MLB's most exorbitantly expensive kinda good team.
  • The spread between the projected AL playoff teams is a measly 3 games. The parity in the league remains remarkable, for better or worse.

Ichiro, All-Time Hits King*(?)

Ichiro, in a pose that I hope one day is preserved as a statue somewhere in Safeco Field.

Ichiro is having himself a fine season with the Miami Marlins. He finds himself up to 2,979 career MLB hits and seems nearly certain to get 3,000 this season (likely sooner rather than later). More significantly, Ichiro just passed Pete Rose for the most hits ever by a professional baseball player if his hits in Japan are included with his MLB stats.

Understandably, there are divided opinions on whether Ichiro's Japanese league hits should count or not. Shockingly (note the sarcasm) Pete Rose doesn't think they should. His argument is essentially the age-old "slippery slope" one: the Japanese leagues are not the same caliber as MLB, so where does the line stop? Should Rose's minor league hits count then? What about Negro League stats?* If Japanese stats are included, our record books live in an entirely new world.

*Editorial note: those should totally count, and it would be a worthy challenge to try to translate those to Major League equivalencies.

Rose is obviously biased, especially given that the hit record is all he has thanks to his banishment from baseball for gambling. I am obviously biased too, given that I am a Mariners fan and watched Ichiro's prime up close. Still, even I can admit that Rose has a valid point. I think he is asking the wrong question though. The Japanese leagues are strong, but not as strong as Major League Baseball. That is not the real question at the heart of this debate between Ichiro and Pete Rose.

Who is the true hit king? And how do we figure that out?

I, for one, propose a different investigation. What if Ichiro had played his whole career in Major League Baseball? How different would his hit total be?

Obviously, we can never know for certain how different Ichiro's career would have been if he played his whole career in Major League Baseball. However, we have seven full seasons of data in Japan (plus a couple cups of coffee early on) and over a decade of data in MLB to look at. This is enough to make some educated guesses on.

So, I made some educated guesses. This whole next section is about my method. You can skip it if you want to avoid the details underneath the hood and go straight to the results (look for the next bold headline) if you prefer.

Translating Ichiro's Japanese hits into MLB equivalencies

Simply translating hits would be a pretty sloppy way to make the jump from Japan to MLB. Really at the heart of the transition is the quality of pitching and how Ichiro responded to it. There is at least a belief that MLB pitchers are quite a bit better than Japanese pitchers as a cohort. Better pitchers tend to strike out more batters, issue fewer walks, and/or induce weaker contact.

So, I chose to look at five stats: plate appearances (PA), walk percentage (BB%), strikeout percentage (K%), home run percentage (HR%) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Plate appearances log how many times Ichiro steps to the plate (walks and at-bats together). BB%, K%, HR% and BABIP all describe outcomes at the plate: either Ichiro walked, struck out, hit a home run, or put the ball in play somewhere. This is as true in MLB as it is in Japan. The real trick is figuring out how these factors changed when Ichiro faced MLB pitching. We would see evidence both of better pitching and any strategic adjustments Ichiro made within these numbers. Finding the conversions, and then using those conversions to adjust his Japan numbers, would give a good idea how Ichiro's seasons would have translated in MLB.

The other reason to use these underlying numbers is that they all stabilize relatively quickly. Fangraphs sample size suggestions say that BABIP of all these numbers is the most unstable, and the only one which would not stabilize within the confines of one season. The same could not be said for many other statistics. Eliminating noise in the data by picking stats that stabilize the quickest should help with accuracy.

Lastly, I decided to consider sample size anyway. I took all seven of Ichiro's full seasons in Japan but weighted them with his age 26 season worth 1, 25 worth 1/2, 24 worth 1/3, and so on until his age 20 season was worth 1/7. I went through the same process with his first 7 seasons in MLB, though with his age 27 season worth 1, age 28 worth 1/2, age 29 worth 1/3, and so on. Essentially, my assumption is that we really want to find the conversion between his age 26 and 27 seasons and use that to gauge as best we can how the rest of his Japanese seasons would have unfolded if they had happened against MLB pitching. Ichiro no doubt developed over his time (both in Japan and the United States), but he also had some up and down seasons. Including multiple years, but weighting them in the way I did, is an attempt to have neighboring seasons inform the investigation without obscuring that the most important and helpful data is closest to when Ichiro made the transition.

With the conversions for all five stats, it is easy to reverse engineer Ichiro's estimated hit total. I took Ichiro's plate appearances and multiplied them by 1.2 to account for the MLB season, which is approximately 20% longer than the Japanese regular season. I then took Ichiro's BB%, K%, HR%, and BABIP for each Japanese season and adjusted them according to the conversions I found based on his numbers in Japan versus his numbers in MLB. Then, with these four rate stats altered, I went back to his projected plate appearances and extrapolated how many walks, home runs, at-bats, and most importantly, hits he would get.


First of all, the conversion rates I found with my method of investigating Ichiro's statistics confirmed that Japanese pitching is not as strong as MLB pitching, and that there is a noteworthy gap. I estimated that Ichiro's walk rate sunk about 37%, strikeout rate rose 18%, home run rate dipped 64%, and BABIP rate sunk 13% when he transitioned from Japan to MLB. In other words, pitchers walked Ichiro less while also striking him out more and inducing weaker contact (given that he hit way fewer home runs and less balls in play went for hits). These are strong indicators across the board that MLB pitching was a noteworthy step up for Ichiro.

Here are Ichiro's Japanese numbers, adjusted for MLB competition based on how he transitioned to MLB:

Age| Jpn PA Jpn AVG Jpn HR Jpn Hits | MLB PA MLB AVG MLB HR MLB Hits
18| 99.253024| 119.216025
19| 67.188112| 80.168013
20| 616.38513210| 739.3456242
21| 613.34225179| 736.32111220
22| 611.35616193| 733.3237223
23| 607.34517185| 728.3167215
24| 558.35813181| 670.3236206
25| 468.34321141| 562.3249171
26| 459.38712153| 551.3525179

The results are fairly interesting, and counterintuitive at first. Clearly, Ichiro's batting suffers against MLB pitching. His projected batting average dips 20-30 points every year and his projected home run totals plummet. However, his projected hit totals increase.

This counterintuitive result is largely driven by the longer MLB season, and more directly the assumption that Ichiro would be playing every day. However, the only reason that matters is because of how all the other factors combine.

Ichiro's shrinking walk and home run rates, while harmful to his overall value as a hitter, actually helped him more than offset his increased strikeout rate. Simply put, overall, Ichiro put more balls in play in MLB than he did in Japan because he walked so much less and hit so many fewer home runs that they more than offset his elevated strikeout rate. All three of these factors take balls out of play, and the main driver of how many hits a player gets is how many balls they put in play. Moreover, while Ichiro's BABIP shrunk some, it did not shrink a ton. The net result is a relatively similar hit rate extended over a longer season. In fact, I project Ichiro would have over 200 more hits if he had played in the majors - 1,494 projected hits to his actual 1,278.

There is one last big catch though that's pretty impossible to answer: when would Ichiro have debuted in Major League Baseball? He almost certainly would not have played as an 18 or 19 year old, especially given his struggles. 20 years old is also very young for a player to debut, much less start a whole season, but Ichiro's age 20 season was arguably his best in Japan. 20 isn't so ridiculously young to think Ichiro couldn't have made the majors at that age, especially given that he is a Hall of Fame talent and that he performed at such a high level in Japan. However, there really is no way to know.

If Ichiro had debuted playing every day as a 21-year-old, I have him projected at 4,193 total hits if he played his whole career in MLB. That would be less than 100 hits short of Pete Rose. So, if Ichiro had debuted halfway through his age 20 season and performed as well as he did, then he would theoretically have the all-time hit record. It's certainly plausible that Ichiro could have done this. Is it probable that he would have though? Hard to say, maybe even impossible.

Of course, this all assumes that Ichiro doesn't get another hit in MLB, and he isn't done yet. He is likely to collect several more hits between now and the end of his career. The more he gets, the later he would have to debut to be the all-time hit king with my projection method.

So, is Ichiro the new all-time hits king? It's hard to say. If he isn't, he is darn close. He is most certainly in a realm only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose have entered before him. That's ultimately the whole point in my eyes.

Ichiro's hit total tells a story; it says something about who he is and what a marvel he is when he steps into the batter's box. History suggests that there will be another hitter something like Ichiro at some point, but hitters like him are exceedingly rare, not even once in a generation. There is no guarantee we see another hitter like Ichiro in our lifetimes. That's what his Japanese numbers help us see and appreciate. That's the real story here. Long live Ichiro.

2016 Mariners Draft Recap

The MLB draft happened over the last weekend. It spanned three days and 40 rounds. This tended to be among Jack Zduriencik's better days as M's GM probably because he came from a scouting background. He tended to grab widely acclaimed talent. It was his regime's inability to develop that talent that ultimately left much to be desired.

I was curious to see how different a Dipoto draft would look from a Zduriencik draft. Dipoto seemed to respect the job that Zduriencik's scouting department did, so much so that he kept Tom McNamara as the head of scouting. McNamara through his role essentially runs the draft so there was some reason to believe that the M's picks might not look all that different.

Ultimately, there is some evidence that the Dipoto Mariners take a bit different style of ballplayer. However, some players picked - especially early on - look a whole bunch like the players that the Mariners have picked in years past. Without further ado, pick-by-pick takes on the Mariners draft, complete with a grade of each pick:
  1. Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer - No-brainer pick, courtesy a few teams above the Mariners reaching for players less talented. Lewis is the first player ever drafted from Mercer in the first round of any pro sports draft (not just baseball), so to say he is a small school prospect is an understatement. However, Lewis annihilated Southern Conference pitching for two years, earning conference player of the year honors two years in a row. This year he also was selected as the NCAA baseball player of the year too. Furthermore, Lewis performed admirably the last two summers in the Cape Cod League, which features a high level of competition and wooden bats. Lewis's power in particular translated fine in the Cape, which is noteworthy. Lewis was athletic enough to play center field at Mercer but I think he ultimately will find a home in left or right field. His height and swing path both suggest some issues making contact in the future, but at 6'4" he never projected to hit for average. What Lewis brings is legitimately good power with the potential for good defense. His ability to work counts will determine just how good of a hitter he becomes. I doubt Lewis becomes a star, but it's easy to see how he could become an above average starter in the middle of a lineup. Grade: A
  2. Joe Rizzo, 3B, Oaktown HS (VA) - Rizzo is a pretty interesting pick, and perhaps says something about the Dipoto regime's values. Rizzo has some things traditional scouts love, namely a beautiful swing and good arm. However, Rizzo is undersized and because of that lacks the kind of projection that scouts tend to love. He also is unlikely to play up the middle defensively, further hampering his upside. With all that said, maybe this pick doesn't say much about Dipoto. Rizzo's best-case comp might be none other than Kyle Seager, and the Mariners have a history of picking these types of fringy hitters under Tom McNamara. Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, though both shortstops, also like Kyle Seager were "reaches" without some of the prototypical tools (though as college prospects). Rizzo has a commitment to South Carolina, which has a reputation as a harder school to sign players away from. Still, Rizzo is unlikely to see his stock go much higher as a prospect. He needs to decide how much he wants a college experience over starting professional baseball. My guess is that he signs and could be a candidate to rise through the early levels of the minor leagues relatively quickly, never garnering much attention as a prospect but hitting too much to not get a shot. Grade: C
  3. Bryson Brigman, SS, San Diego - Brigman sprayed the ball around as a hitter with limited power in college. With that said, Brigman generally played in parks that favored pitchers and in a few Cape Cod league at-bats his gap power showed up. Brigman will never hit for much power, but he very much fits the Chris Taylor/Drew Jackson mold, which seems to be one that McNamara favors and that the Mariners do pretty well with. Grade: C
  4. Thomas Burrows, LHP, Alabama - Burrows closed for the Crimson Tide and figures to stay a reliever as a pro. He could progress quickly through the minors, especially given the M's lack of bullpen depth. I would say he is the odds-on favorite to be the first player from this draft class to appear in Safeco Field. Grade: A
  5. Donnie Walton, SS, Oklahoma State - Walton is an undersized middle infielder that hit well enough at Oklahoma State. He is a senior so should have an easy time signing. Picking him seems at least partially tied to Joe Rizzo as it seems like Walton could sign for under slot value and give the M's some breathing room in negotiation with Rizzo. I think the Mariners could have found more upside with this pick and still saved money, though Walton has a chance to provide organizational depth up the middle. Grade: D
  6. Brandon Miller, RHP, Millersville - Miller comes from a division II school, so small with a relatively low level of competition. However, Millersville was very good this past year and Miller was clearly the staff ace. He dominated, allowing just 63 hits in over 100 innings while striking out over a batter an inning. Moreover, he had a strong showing in the Cape Cod league, which features lots of the best Division I players in the country. Miller also looks the part of a pro pitcher, standing at 6'4" with a durable pitching frame. Nice pick at this stage in the draft. Grade: A
  7. Matt Festa, RHP, East Stroudsburg - Festa is a redshirt senior from a small university so he seems like another player likely to sign and maybe for a discount. Festa anchored his pitching staff and blew away hitters all year, though against substandard competition at a relatively advanced age. He is also undersized. Grade: D
  8. Nick Zammarelli, 3B, Elon - Zammarelli's best tool is power. However, it comes with plenty of strikeouts. He struck out in about a third of his at-bats in the Cape Cod League over the summer, which is alarming to say the least. However, he also clearly improved throughout his college career. Zammarelli could be fun to watch as a good test case over how well the Mariners teach players to "control the zone." He needs to refine his swing and approach to let his power show through in games. Grade: C
  9. Jason Goldstein, C, Illinois - Goldstein is a senior backstop who started all four years at Illinois in the underrated Big Ten conference. He was productive though did not develop all that much in college. That suggests he might be what he's going to be. Goldstein might fly through the lower levels of the minors but I do not see enough of a bat to ever be a contributor in the majors. However, it does not take much of a bat to be a serviceable catcher, even as a backup. Grade: D
  10. David Greer, 3B, Arizona State - The Mariners might have to go above slot to sign Greer, and also might have the resources to pull that off with some of the seniors taken in earlier rounds. Greer is a bit of a three true outcome type - lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and developing power. He still has mostly gap power, but the number of extra base hits has gone up exponentially over his college career. Greer's holes combined with his significant development the past few years suggest a player who could blossom as a professional. Grade: B
  11. Michael Koval, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona - Another small school pitcher, Koval was the ace for another great Division II team. Koval's ERA and hits allowed were sparkling but he struck out fewer batters than would be expected for a legitimate pro prospect from a small school. He reminds me a bit of Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishak with a bit of cross-fire, side-arm action in his delivery. I wonder if that means the Mariners will convert him into a reliever and see if his stuff plays up. A bit of a reach for my taste at this spot in the draft. Grade: D
  12. Tim Viehoff, LHP, Southern New Hampshire - Viehoff is a senior from a small school but he absolutely crushed his competition. Flawless production, albeit the age and level of competition must be noted. However, this is a stage in the draft where a player with this kind of track record makes all the sense in the world. Also, Viehoff uncorked 10 wild pitched in just 14 starts, which actually might be a good thing. Pro catchers are much better at blocking pitches, and wild pitches tend to be partly caused by pitches the move around and are tough to handle. Grade: A
  13. Reggie McClain, RHP, Missouri - Another senior, but this time from the vaunted SEC. He performed admirable, though did not dominate. McClain might have pitched to too much contact, actually, as he walked only 9 batters in 101 innings as a senior. He certainly knows how to control the zone, which at least means he will set a good example of the style the Mariners want to cultivate. He is rather old by prospect standards as he is already 23. Grade: B
  14. Kyle Davis, RHP, USC - Yet another senior pitcher, Davis flew under the radar at USC. He worked his way into the starting rotation, though never did much to look all that good or bad. Interestingly he worked as a reliever in the Cape Cod league a few summers ago and also found his most success out of the Trojans bullpen as a sophomore. He was drafted last year by the Blue Jays but opted not to sign, and got drafted several rounds earlier this year. He could have a future as a reliever. Grade: B
  15. Danny Garcia, LHP, Miami (FL) - Some scout in the M's organization must see something they can do to fix Garcia. He took a noticeable step backwards this year after looking like he was on track to become a relatively high draft pick. He became more hittable this year with both a reduced strikeout rate and elevated home run rate. With that said, sometimes if a pitcher gains velocity they will give up more home runs and lose command. I don't know exactly what happened with Garcia, but it is the kind of trend that suppresses value yet there could also be plausible reasons to see the problems as a step back before a few steps forward. Grade: D
  16. Lyle Lin, C, Junipero Serra HS (CA) - The school buries the story here. Lin is the first Taiwanese player every drafted. For those of you saying "wait, I remember Chien-Ming Wang and he's from Taiwan!" you are correct. He signed as a free agent though. I don't have much on Lin, though looking at his YouTube highlights he appears to have simple stroke that seems rather mechanical for better and worse. It's at least fun to make history. Grade: C
  17. Dimas Ojeda, LF, McClennan CC - Ojeda is listed as a first baseman so left field is presumably a projected position switch the Mariners will try. Moreover, Ojeda's statline suggests more gap power which is not ideal for first base offense, and his build suggest a lithe body capable of covering some ground. Lots of players have gaudy offensive statlines at McClennan; frankly, Ojeda does not stand out among his teammates. Maybe the roster is loaded with future professionals. It would have to be for this pick to make sense. Grade: F
  18. Robert Dugger, RHP, Texas Tech - Dugger notched just one year at the D-I level and it was out of the bullpen. So, very small sample size to work with statistically, but what he did was solid. Not the worst value at this point. Grade: C
  19. DeAires Moses, CF, Volunteer State (TN) - Moses is listed at just 5'9" and 170 pounds. He also did not hit a home run this past season. He has some gap power and I am guessing projects as an above average defender in center field to get drafted this high. Grade: D
  20. Eric Filia, RF, UCLA - Filia is a 5th year senior, so older at 23 years old. He also missed the past two seasons before playing a full slate of games in 2016. Filia got drafted because he has an incredible eye. He somehow walked 41 times despite limited contact and power ability. He controls the zone and is more likely to set a good example of the M's philosophy than make a dent in the majors. Still, he seems like a helpful player to have in the organization. Grade: B
  21. Austin Grebeck, CF, Oregon - Grebeck is a pest, plain and simple. He has limited contact and virtually no power, yet still walks a fair amount. He plays a bit like his father, Craig Grebeck, a scrappy outfielder who played for handful of teams around the turn of the millenium. I don't know if Dipoto is good friends with Craig Grebeck, but they probably ran into each other during their MLB careers. This could be partly a pick for him and partly another "Control the Zone" exemplar for other prospects to watch. Grade: C
  22. Jansiel Rivera, CF, Methuen HS (MA) - I can't find much on Rivera the player, but he has to have one of the most intriguing stories in the draft. Apparently Rivera moved to the Dominican Republic to play there for a few years before moving back to the states on May 6. He told his high school coach he would get drafted when he moved back, though the coach had no idea what to make of such a bold statement after a few years away. So, the Mariners likely gave Rivera some sort of guarantee and almost certainly ran into him while scouting in the Dominican. He seems like a true sleeper prospect they stumbled upon to some degree. The story alone makes him worth the pick at this point. Grade: B
  23. Jack Anderson, RHP, Penn State - A reliever his whole career in college with some success one summer in the Cape Cod league. Also a senior so easy to sign. Good pick at this stage in the draft. Grade: B
  24. Trey Griffey, CF, Arizona - I don't know when the Mariners stopped thinking they were drafting real prospects, but they most certainly thought they were through at this point. Trey is Ken Griffey Jr.'s son, and he is a wide receiver for the Wildcats football team. He hasn't played an inning of baseball at Arizona. What a coincidence that he was listed as a center fielder and drafted in round 24...quite the coincidence indeed. The Year of Griffey Worship continues. Grade: A
  25. Ryan Fucci, CF, Wright State - Fucci is strikeout prone, and probably too strikeout prone to make it far as a professional. However, he also has some speed and gap power. He will sign since he is a senior. Grade: B
  26. Elliot Surrey, LHP, UC Irvine - The Mariners loaded up on college seniors, perhaps suggesting that Jerry Dipoto prefers some experience even in the lowest levels of the minors. Surrey had a solid career at UC Irvine and now gets a chance to pitch as far as he can go in the pros. Grade: A
  27. Paul Covelle, RHP, Franklin Pierce - Yet another senior, Covelle had a strong senior season and garnered some attention from the Cape Cod summer league. Worth taking a chance on at this stage. Grade: B
  28. Nathan Bannister, RHP, Arizona - The senior right-hander was a steady performer throughout his college career and even held his own in the Cape Cod league in 2014. He probably won't miss enough bats to make it to the majors but he is more than worth taking a chance on at this stage in the draft. Grade: A
  29. Steven Ridlings, RHP, Messiah - It's always a good sign when Google tries to autocorrect your spelling to the person they think you meant, but of course Google was wrong! Ridlings is very much a small school prospect, but he was a highly productive senior that improved over time. It was fun tracking down some info on him and finding a hidden gem of a season. Grade: A
  30. Tyler Duncan, CF, Edward Milne SS (BC) - Duncan is a Canadian prep star whom has at least one friend that really believes in him, judging from the yelling in the background of the camera phone video I could find to "scout" him. Duncan sets up wide in his batting stance and has rather quiet mechanics. His slight uppercut produces loft and from the looks of it some power potential, though his approach might leave him susceptible to high velocity, particularly up in the strike zone. In the end, this is probably a pick that's a favor to some area scout in the M's draft room that wasn't getting much action. Grade: C
  31. Lincoln Henzman, RHP, Louisville - Henzman is the rare draft-eligible sophomore and he might have slipped through the cracks. He struggled somewhat out of the Louisville bullpen this season, at least by traditional metrics. However, his strikeout rate and relatively weak contact against him suggest he might have been the victim of bad luck. The Mariners have a bit of a steal if they can get him to sign but if I were him I would return to school and take my chances at improving my draft stock. Grade: C
  32. Kenyan Yovan, RHP, Westview HS (OR) - Yovan is committed to the University of Oregon and would likely take a signing bonus to get in the fold. I doubt he signs, but maybe he grew up loving the Mariners and that changes his mind. Grade: C
  33. Morgan McCullough, SS, West Seattle HS (WA) - Local kid, and maybe he signs if he really wants a taste of pro baseball. McCullough is undersized but his raw skills suggest a capable defender up the middle with a bat that might generate some gap power. McCullough is also a University of Oregon recruit but I can't find as firm of information on how likely he is to stick with that commitment. My gut says he has a better chance to sing than Yovan, for whatever that is worth. Grade: B
  34. David Ellingson, RHP, Georgetown - Solid reliever with a year of eligibility left. No real reason for him to sign this year. Grade: D
  35. Will Ethridge, RHP, Parkview HS (GA) - Ethridge comes from one of the better prep baseball programs in the nation at the moment and is committed to Mississippi. There is no reason to expect that he will sign. In fact, he has already stated he will go to Ole Miss since being drafted. He is all about his projectable frame at the moment. Grade: D
  36. Joe Venturino, 2B, Rampano College - Rampano is a DIII school, and I suppose the draft would have been incomplete without such a small school popping up somewhere. The Mariners definitely did not shy away from small schools in this draft. Venturino has virtually no power but good plate discipline and speed. He controls the zone, and as a DIII alumnus myself I enjoy seeing players at this level selected. Grade: A
  37. Eli Wilson, C, Garfield HS (WA) - Eli is Dan Wilson's son, and if he can block pitches anything like Dan then he has a future in baseball. Eli is definitely to some degree a legacy pick, but unlike Trey Griffey much earlier, Eli actually plays baseball. Moreover, he signed a letter of intent with Minnesota in March which is conveniently where his father played baseball in college. Nice sentimental pick here, and this might not be the last we hear about Eli in baseball as well. Grade: A
  38. James Reilly, RHP, Albertus Magnus HS - I can't find anything on Reilly. Some scout saw him and liked him. He is the rare pitcher that bats left-handed but throws right-handed, which might suggest some substantial batting in his background. Grade: D
  39. Camryn Williams, SS, Gaither HS (FL) - Williams enjoyed a solid senior season. I don't know where he is committed to playing but I doubt he signs. Grade: C
  40. Adley Rutschman, C, Sherwood HS (OR) - Rutschman is committed to Oregon State and the overwhelming odds are that he sticks to that. Still, nice shout out to a relatively local kid. It is interesting that the Mariners listed him as a catcher but he might pitch for the Beavers. Grade: B
Overall draft trends:
  • Weighted* GPA of draft grades: 3.06 (B)
  • Players by education level: 11 high school, 2 community/junior college, 12 college underclassmen, 15 college seniors
  • 19 pitchers drafted, 21 position players
  • 15 right-handed pitchers, 4 left-handed pitchers
  • Positions drafted, most to least: 6 CF, 4 C, 4 SS, 3 3B, 1 2B, 1 LF, 1 RF, 1 OF
*Weighted so that earlier picks are more valuable. This is done by taking the reciprocal of the overall pick and then averaging the sums. So, pick 60 is worth 1/60, while pick 70 is 1/70. So pick 70 is weighted less than pick 60, but differences become smaller and smaller as the draft wears on.

Overall draft thoughts:

I like this draft class quite a bit more than last year's, which using the same methodology ended up with a cumulative 2.29 GPA. However, I should note that I did not like Andrew Moore much and absolutely hated Drew Jackson. Both of them have turned out to be much better than I thought. Time will tell how good the class of 2016 turns out to be.

A couple trends say something about the Mariners as an organization though. They clearly showed an agenda with the positions they had draft picks announced as. I doubt it is a mistake that the Mariners had more players listed as catchers, shortstops, and centerfielders than anywhere else on the diamond, especially given that the only position they drafted nobody at was first base. It is pretty obvious that Jerry Dipoto's philosophy is to allow players to start their careers at the most premium defensive position possible and play it as long as possible.

Furthermore, given this stance, it seems telling that Joe Rizzo was announced as a third baseman. If the Mariners saw any potential for him to stick at shortstop they probably would have announced him as playing that position (he played it a fair amount in high school). Additionally, Kyle Lewis is the only prospect the Mariners listed simply as "outfielder" without a specification of which outfield position. I did not think much of this distinction on day one, but after seeing the rest of the draft unfold that seems like a pretty solid hint that the Mariners are honestly uncertain if Lewis can play center field as he has in college.

Dipoto and co. skewed rather old this year too with a large percentage of college players and college seniors in particular. This largely happened in the middle to later rounds and that probably is not a fluke. We have already seen that Dipoto likes minor league teams with a mix of polished talent around prospects. It's why the M's farm teams are winning much more across the board than in recent history.

The Trey Griffey pick, though symbolic, was also insightful. It came surprisingly early for symbolic pick, which suggests to me that most of the back half of the draft was spent looking for minor league depth that fits the organization. Hitters picked late tended to walk a ton in college, and pitchers tended to throw lots of strikes. In other words, players who control the zone.

It's easy to imagine Everett featuring a pretty strong team looking at this draft class, which could be fun. I also wonder if this college-heavy approach was partially a response to the raw, young players Jack Zduriencik picked near the end of his tenure - in particular players we haven't seen yet this year, like Nick Neidert and Gareth Morgan. It's interesting to wonder if many of the college seniors taken by the Mariners are viewed as peer mentors for the organization's core prospects. There is some evidence to suggest just that. Reggie McClain and Eric Filia will both turn 24 this year and they both posted absurd walk rates in college. They will model exactly what it means to control the zone.

Ultimately, I think this class produces three MLB players: Kyle Lewis, Thomas Burrows, and then one of Joe Rizzo, Bryson Bringham, and Brandon Miller. Some dark horses to become prospects are David Greer, Tim Viehoff, and Jansiel Rivera. I would add any of the prep players in the last 10 rounds that sign to the list as well.

This isn't a sexy class on paper, but it has the look of a solid one. The real test remains if the Mariners can develop their own talent. They have struggled with that in the past; hopefully this draft class one way or another helps them figure out how to help their own prospects blossom.

MLB Projected Standings, Week 10

I am more interested in the future at the moment with the MLB draft unfolding, but after a week hiatus it is more than time for a projected standings update. Will an extra week mean extra changes?

You can read about the model here, or keep on reading for the updated standings (change in win total from last week in parentheses).

MLB Projected Standings, Week 10:

AL WestAL CentralAL East
Rangers, 86-76 (+4) 0 GBIndians, 89-73 (0), 0 GBRed Sox, 89-73 (-2), 0 GB
Mariners, 85-77 (-2) 1 GBTigers, 83-79 (+2), 6 GB     Orioles, 87-75 (+3), 2 GB
Astros, 83-79 (+2), 3 GBWhite Sox, 81-81 (-4), 8 GBBlue Jays, 84-78 (+2), 5 GB
Angels, 74-88 (-1), 12 GBRoyals, 78-84 (0), 11 GBYankees, 83-79 (+1), 6 GB
Athletics, 73-89 (+1), 13 GB     Twins, 66-96 (+1), 23 GBRays, 78-84 (-1), 11 GB
NL WestNL CentralNL East
Giants, 93-69 (0), 0 GBCubs, 105-57 (+2), 0 GBNationals, 95-67 (+1), 0 GB
Dodgers, 93-69 (-1), 0 GBCardinals, 87-75 (+2), 18 GBMets, 94-68 (-2), 1 GB
Rockies, 74-88 (0), 19 GB     Pirates, 87-75 (-3), 18 GBMarlins, 82-80 (0), 13 GB
Diamondbacks, 72-90 (-1), 21 GB    Brewers, 72-90 (+1), 33 GBPhillies, 70-92 (-3), 25 GB
Padres, 69-93 (0), 24 GBReds, 65-97 (+1), 40 GBBraves, 56-106 (-1), 39 GB

Wild card play-in games: Mariners at Orioles, Dodgers at Mets
ALDS match-ups: play-in vs. Red Sox, Rangers vs. Indians
NLDS match-ups: play-in vs. Cubs, Giants vs. Nationals

Some musings:
  • The American League is bunching up a bit again. Team entropy beams with pride.
  • Don't sleep on the Astros. They are starting to play like many thought they would at the start of the season and the AL West is quite mediocre.
  • When will the Dodgers play up to their potential? This projection system is staying very optimistic about them, but we are 60 games in and they are not looking like a 90-win team.
  • It feels like the National League playoff teams are already set, though some jostling between division winners and wild-card teams will take place. That's assuming the Dodgers start playing up to their talent level at some point.
  • Meanwhile, 10 of 15 American League teams project within 5 games of a playoff spot.