In Episode 3 of The Pool Shot, Jeff and I jammed in a lot of D-backs goodness: the way the pitching staff shapes up for the spring currently, some odds and ends like the Chad Billingsley issue I flagged last week, and a whole bunch on the minor league system. I think I speak for Jeff when I say I’m excited by all of the feedback we’ve received thus far. Thanks to all who have listened, and we appreciate you spreading the word!
Also thanks to Preston of S. Preston Designs for our wonderful new podcast logo, which we really love. You may remember Preston as the guy who did the series of minimalist ballpark designs, including this one of Chase Field. The holidays are coming, folks…
The biggest D-backs news of the week was the hiring of a new Assistant General Manager to replace Billy Ryan, whose contract was not renewed. One doesn’t normally think of anyone as a “AGM free agent” type, the way one might with former GMs, but that’s essentially what Bryan Minniti was. Minniti rose up the ladder from intern to director of baseball ops with Pittsburgh, and was most recently with the Nationals as AGM, a post he held for five years. He appears to have left voluntarily, and at the time, he supposedly wasn’t sure if his next post would be in baseball.
Nick Piecoro reported on Minniti’s hiring at the end of last week. He will handle the more administrative duties, which makes a lot of sense given the lack of familiarity that GM Dave Stewart and CBO Tony La Russa may have with some of the roster rules ins and outs. But Piecoro’s piece has another interesting bit: Minniti has a math and statistics background from undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh, and with the Nationals, he at least took part in guiding the analytics aspect of baseball operations.
Now that’s interesting. One of the reasons we’ve pushed hard for the D-backs to hire on multiple analytics guys is that an analytics department would have a head, and the head could serve as a translator and advocate. From a roundup last month while the D-backs were GM-less:
Just like La Russa is in place to help Ken Kendrick with questions like “how do I baseball,” a sabermetrics sherpa can only help the impending front-office-by-committee, regardless of who the next GM is.
Piecoro’s story makes it seem that analytics won’t be Minniti’s primary focus, but it looks like he is pegged as that very sherpa. I need to borrow an entire quote of Dave Stewart from Piecoro’s piece (sorry, Nick!): “‘If you have the people who can do it and the people who can explain it,’ he said, ‘it’s got a chance to make a positive impact in your decision making.'”
Standing ovation for Stewart and the rest of the D-backs front office. Extremely encouraging. I have no idea what Minniti is like and what his skills are, and no idea if he can fill this role, especially on a secondary basis. But those words from Stewart? I’m sold now. I’m in. Being open to being convinced is everything we could wish for. The rest is up to the analytics guys, to do the convincing when it’s called for. As I said in the piece advocating for a whole analytics department, it’s about setting up a system whereby the right people will listen, but the analytics types will have the burden of persuasion.
It seems like Minniti may help with the hiring of other stats folks, so the story isn’t over yet. But Stewart’s outlook, even more than Minniti’s hiring, makes me feel like our site wish has already been granted.
On to the links:
- One of the things that Jeff addressed in talking about his findings from his review of the minor league organizations (see links in the margin) was the success (or lack of success) of the prospects acquired in trades over the last year or so. Peter O’Brien is shaping up to be the most divisive player in that group, and Nick Piecoro has the details on the power-first, catching-later O’Brien. Interesting story, of O’Brien kind of beating the odds thus far. He’s on the radar, and I’ll defer to Jeff’s comments in Episode 3 of The Pool Shot. My eyebrow is raised on O’Brien as a catcher, though. I have no reason to believe that he can’t be a halfway decent, fringe-average MLB catcher behind the plate, although that’s a tough thing to achieve. It’s more that I doubt very much that he’ll hit so much as to warrant below-average work behind the dish. With all that we now know about framing, etc., the stakes are just too high. But maybe O’Brien will be on the cusp when it comes time to decide to let Mark Trumbo walk.
- Missed this article last week, but Jason Beck, the Tigers writer for MLB.com, addressed the D-backs’ impressive hiring of Mike Russell as a special assistant to De Jon Watson and “Coordinator of Professional Scouting.” Russell appears to be a great scout and a great person, and I’m glad he’ll be adding another voice to the D-backs’ front office by committee. If the hiring of De Jon Watson makes it hard for Ray Montgomery to advance in the D-backs org, however, I really don’t know what the Russell hiring does.
- Learned a lot in a short time from this piece by Jim Souhan on the long road and recent rise of Chip Hale. Extremely impressive. More cause for optimism.
- Venom Strikes is doing a “Free Agent Target” series, profiling several pitchers like Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana and Jason Hammel (here are the story links: Masterson, Liriano, Santana, Hammel). For what it’s worth, Masterson is a solid “no, absolutely not,” really at any price he conceivably fetch, unless it was on a one-year deal (which is unlikely). Liriano is probably a pipe dream; there’s a good chance the Pirates will gamble on a qualifying offer, and there’s almost no shot of fitting him into the payroll. Liriano is my favorite idea. Santana will cost a draft pick, and doesn’t fit the D-backs right now. Hammel is interesting since he can’t be a QO guy and because the D-backs don’t need help with bulk innings anyway, but the (poor) height of the ceiling that probably makes him a poor choice for the team. By the way, our grand Offseason Plan is slated for the middle of November — we’ll be sequestering ourselves for a couple of weekends to work on it, after the Top 30 Prospects List goes up.
- Thomas Lynch of Venom Strikes also reminds us that David Peralta is still playing baseball, in the Venezuelan League. Shoot, I wish I had checked on this before publishing the 5-man infield post last week. If Peralta is comfortable at first base, that opens up more shift possibilities. Trumbo is the team’s backup first baseman, but I suppose Peralta is probably the third-string guy there entering 2015.
- Couple really good D-backs oriented articles at RotoGraphs last week. First was this one on Trevor Cahill by Daniel Schwartz. Now we need someone else like a Doug Thorburn or a Dave Duncan to tell us whether a consistent release point is something Cahill can attain. But as watchers of D-backs games, I think we all know this: either he’s on, or he’s not, and it doesn’t seem to be a matter of degrees. What if Cahill is actually just one adjustment away from being the #2 starter type he seemed on track to become? Could make for a nice little return in July…
- Mike Podhorzer takes a stab at the “enigma” called Aaron Hill. It’s true that he’s all over the place, but Podhorzer seems to get there the wrong way in making no attempt to take games played into account. Look, I also called him an “enigma” last week, so it’s not that I disagree; and Podhorzer has some good insight in the piece. Still, I prefer Paulnh’s version (a little more forward-looking), published a few days earlier.
- Archie Bradley, Peter O’Brien and Brandon Drury will all play in the AFL All-Star Game. Cool.
- Finally, our condolences to the families of Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo, and to the St. Louis Cardinals organization and community. It’s a tragedy whenever a good person is cut down like this in their youth, but it might be a different kind when together, we all mourn someone who might have fascinated millions with a unique talent. Lots out there on this, but I recommend this piece from Sahadev Sharma.
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