Assorted Mariner Notes: Arbitration and Prospects

Some Mariner notes have been piling up, each not really worth a full article, but the combination of which comes out to a full length article.

The Mariners signed Dominican outfielder Luis Liberato according to Baseball America. The 17 year old received a $140,000 bonus, which is obviously much less than the 1.1 million spent on Hersin Martinez last year. Martinez really struggled in the DSL last year in all three facets of the game. There aren’t any Luis Liberato videos available from what I can see, so I decided to just compare the short scouting reports from the Baseball America articles, both written by Ben Badler. Martinez has “raw power”, “tape measure home runs”, “when he is able to get his arms extended”. As far as build, he “has a large projectable frame and should be able to add significant weight”. However, there were questions as to whether “he’ll be able to make enough contact..to translate to game situations” and he has a “hitch in his swing”. Martinez has “trouble with velocity” and “trouble going up the middle and using the opposite field”. “He is a decent athlete”. Liberato on the other hand, “has flashed a mature approach” and “advanced baseball instincts”.  “He’ll try to sell out for power at times, but when he’s at his best he’s shown a solid swing. The Mariners believe he can stay in center field, though he has the arm for right field if necessary”. So Liberato’s scouting report compares very favorably, minus the power Martinez showed, especially when you consider that Martinez was definitely a corner outfielder and Liberato has the chance to stick in center. Of course, one has to consider the fact that rules on signing Dominican prospects have changed since Martinez was signed, suppressing signing bonuses quite dramatically.

Arbitration figures were exchanged on Friday, and many players signed contracts avoiding arbitration. A couple former Mariners of note include John Jaso, who signed for 1.8 million with the A’s and Jason Vargas, who signed for 8.5 million with the Angels. By comparison, Michael Morse will make 6.75 million in 2013 and the Mariners signed Kendrys Morales for 5.25 million (plus incentives) on Friday. So essentially, the Mariners got rid of 10.3 million in salary with the two trades, while taking on 12 million in guaranteed salaries. The Athletics also got extra team control with Jaso, while the other 3 are free agents after 2013. So you would expect Morse and Morales to at least slightly outperform Jaso and Vargas in 2013 if the Mariners made fair trades. My guess is that Morales may outperform Vargas, while Jaso will probably outperform Morse. Brendan Ryan also signed for 3.25 million. Comparing this figure to position players who made around that kind of money in 2012, we see Michael Morse’s name ironically pop up, along with players like Yorvit Torrealba, Ramon Hernandez, Alberto Callaspo, and Pablo Sandoval. Obviously Ryan is not in Sandoval’s company, but Hernandez and Torrealba were reserves in 2012. Callaspo was an interesting comparison I thought, as he is solid defensively, but plays a less valuable position. Ryan is also more athletic than Callaspo, but Callaspo is a much better hitter. Ryan has been better according to WAA, but that uses DRS, which is the most aggressive defensive system, which would give Ryan an edge. The most regressive (that is, there are less extremes) defensive system is FRAA, and when you compare the two according to WARP (which uses FRAA) Ryan has a 5.4 WARP over the last 3 years, while Callaspo has a 7 WARP. I have suggested in other places that moving away from a run based metric is probably the best way to evaluate Ryan. In other words, like Callaspo, I believe Ryan has the skill set of an every day player, especially at shortstop.

Shawn Kelley was not signed, and filed at 1.2 million while the team filed at 750,000. The vast majority of the time, especially for players that help teams in anyway at all, I side with the player in arbitration hearings. Players under team control are very underpaid on average, especially when compared to free agent contracts. To me, this is no different, if Kelley became a free agent, he would receive more than 1.2 million. Juan Cruz, who ended up being released during the season (and signing another minor league contract for the 2013 season), was signed to a minor league contract but made 1.25 million during the 2012 season. While this process is basically designed to keep player salaries down, Kelley was a considerably better pitcher than Cruz in 2012.

Baseball Instinct released it’s top 21 Mariner prospects. They rank Zunino first and Walker 2nd (all the ranking systems have been mixed on this). As far as the rest of the list goes, Edwin Diaz at 11 seemed rather high, but as they report, he hits 97 MPH on his fastball, while all the talk is about the Big 3 then Pike, Sanchez, and Gohara (who is ranked 12th). Strangely, Carter Capps was not on the list, while Stephen Pryor was. Another quick note, it seems to me that Mariner blogs overvalue Brad Miller, while sites that write on prospects through out baseball undervalue him (my odds system that uses speed score and FRAA data along with offensive odds really likes him). He seems to be somewhere in between to me.

Clint Hulsey

Grew up in Texas but always have been a fan of Griffey/A-Rod/Ichiro. 21 year old student interested in scouting, minor league and amateur baseball, and just baseball in general. Favorite general sports moment: The Texas versus USC college football national championship comes to mind, as does Gary Matthews Jr. catch on July 1st 2006. Favorite Seattle Sports Moment: King Felix throwing a perfect game against the Rays

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