Articles by Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

Cowboys Mock Draft, Version 2.0

This is my second crack at a mock draft for the Cowboys using Fanspeak’s On the Clock simulator (the first mock can be seen here). The big change since my first mock was Greg Hardy’s signing, which helps alleviate the need for a defensive end. It doesn’t eliminate it entirely though, given the possibility of Hardy getting hit with a suspension to begin the season. A running back to replace DeMarco Murray remains a big priority but fortunately for the ‘Boys, this draft class is very deep at running back. If Melvin Gordon isn’t available at the tail end of the first round, there are plenty of nice consolation prizes available later on. Other needs include the secondary (corner and safety), linebacker depth, and a tackle to understudy Tyron Smith and Doug Free and possibly serve as Free’s replacement in 2016.

All that said, here’s my second kick at the mock draft can:

Cowboys Mock Draft, Version 1.0

With the NFL draft inching closer, it felt like time to mosey on over to Fanspeak’s On the Clock simulator to crank out a mock draft or seven for the team I cover for Rotowire: the Cowboys. Doing mock drafts may be an exercise in futility when it comes to actually predicting who might go in any particular draft slot, but it’s a great way to force yourself to become familiar with the draft class beyond the obvious big names. For instance, last year when doing mocks, I kept running into the name Dezmen Southward (an unheralded safety out of Wisconsin) as available in the late rounds. When I actually looked him up, however, I discovered that he’d torn up the track with a 4.38 40-time at his pro day, and so when he got popped in the third round by the Falcons it was no surprise to me.

This year, the obvious glaring need for the Cowboys is a running back to replace DeMarco Murray. Fortunately for them, this draft class is very deep at running back. If Melvin Gordon isn’t available at the tail end of the first round, someone like Jay Ajayi could be a nice consolation prize later on. Their other glaring need, a pass rushing defensive end, could be harder to find, however, both due to draft position and due to the fact that this doesn’t look like a great year for them.

That said, here’s the first kick at the mock draft can:

Gose Is Cooking. Should You Take A Bite?

(Why yes, I did want to be the first person to make that awful pun. Why do you ask?)

When Anthony Gose got swapped to the Tigers this offseason, nobody thought much of it. He was looking like yet another prospect who didn’t entirely pan out, a slick defender with wheels who couldn’t hit enough to earn a regular job and would probably end up as a fourth outfielder. There were noises about a platoon with Rajai Davis, but given that Gose is just a career .241/.316/.350 hitter versus righties, that seemed more like a case of keeping him away from same-side pitchers rather than trying to maximize his strengths.

Then spring training happened.

Deliberate Hitters vs MLB’s New Rules

One of the changes MLB has made this season to try and speed up games involves how much futzing about batters can do between pitches. If a batter swings and misses, or ducks out of the way of a beanball, he can wander off and do all the glove-tugging and cleat-cleaning he wants, but if he takes a pitch, he’ll have to keep one foot in the batter’s box while he adjusts whatever he thinks needs adjusting, all under the watchful eye of an umpire who’s under orders from the league to keep it moving, already. In the spring, batters will merely get warnings as everyone gets used to the new rules. Once the regular season begins, however, warnings will become fines that go towards a charity Hokey-Pokey tournament during the All-Star break, probably.

In all likelihood, this won’t be a big deal for anyone. However, batters are creatures of habit, and disrupting those habits could get into their brains and prevent them from getting comfortable. If the new rules do cause any hitters some discomfort, and that discomfort affects their performance, who are the players most likely to be affected? The ones used to taking the most amount of time between pitches, of course.

Below is a list of some of the batters you might want to keep an eye on this spring, to see if the new rules are messing with their routines or not (stats courtesy of Pitchf/x via Fangraphs). I mean, we all know how important spring stats are, so something that impacts those spring stats must be, like, absolutely crucial:

Looking For The Next Shoemaker

Last season saw a number of surprising pitching performances from completely unheralded hurlers that likely won a lot of fantasy leagues for the owners lucky enough to scoop them up. Guys like Collin McHugh (11 wins, 2.73 ERA, 157 K’s in 154.2 innings), Matt Shoemaker (16 wins, 3.04 ERA, 124 K’s in 136 innings) and Jacob deGrom (nine wins, 2.69 ERA, 144 K’s in 140.1 innings) not only had great seasons in 2014, they provided their fantasy owners with significantly more value than big-name prospects like Archie Bradley or Kevin Gausman. So what did all those feel-good, out-of-nowhere pitchers have in common?

Well, to be honest… the secret ingredient seems to be that they all survived pitching in high-offense Triple-A home parks the year before.

  • McHugh 2013: 3.69 ERA, 88:27 K:BB ratio in 100 innings between Las Vegas and Colorado Springs
  • Shoemaker 2013: 4.64 ERA, 160:29 K:BB ratio in 184.1 innings at Salt Lake
  • deGrom 2013: 4.52 ERA, 63:24 K:BB ratio in 75.2 innings at Las Vegas

Note that they didn’t necessarily pitch well at Triple-A. None of them put up numbers that would have caused you to give them a second glance if you were just scanning the high minors looking for positive outliers. But they held their own, and for a pitcher who was never a top prospect, who had to claw his way up the ladder one rung at a time, proving you can survive a hostile Pacific Coast League environment like those in Vegas or Salt Lake could be the last piece of the mental puzzle necessary to not just get to the majors, but thrive once you arrive.

So, if this theory is correct, who are some pitchers with uninspiring Triple-A numbers in 2014, and without big-time prospect pedigrees, who might become this season’s deGrom, McHugh or Shoemaker? Here are a few possibilities.

Carlos Frias: If I had to bet on one pitcher becoming a 2015 waiver wire stud, it would be Frias. His numbers in Albuquerque (5.01 ERA, 65:21 K:BB ratio in 91.2 innings) were pretty ugly, but in a September start against the Nationals at Chavez Ravine, he threw six shutout innings with a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Two weeks later, he got a second spot start in Denver and didn’t make it out of the first inning, fragging his final big league numbers. He’s got a mid-90s fastball, a couple of decent breaking balls, good control, and a near guarantee that Dodgers’ projected fifth starter Brett Anderson is going to get hurt at some point. That’s a pitcher worth keeping an eye on.

Juan Oramas: An overlooked side effect of the Padres’ offseason makeover was the need for them to clear roster room for all the new arrivals, and Oramas was one of the first players they jettisoned (coincidentally and possibly ironically, claimed off waivers by Toronto so his spot on the 40-man could be given to ex-Jay Brandon Morrow). He’s already checked one ‘overcoming adversity on his way up the ladder’ box after 2012 Tommy John surgery, and while the 24-year-old had an unsightly 5.61 ERA in 110.2 innings at El Paso, his 93:45 K:BB ratio could have been worse, and his Double-A performance before his promotion (1.05 ERA, 23:6 K:BB in 25.2 innings in 2014, 3.07 ERA, 64:16 K:BB ratio in 55.2 innings in 2013) was outstanding. He’s got three solid pitches, and with the Jays relying on a number of young pitchers in their rotation, the possibility of an opening or two cropping up during the season is higher than it might be with some other clubs.

Charles Brewer: Another player who was essentially given away in the offseason (heading from the Diamondbacks to the Indians for cash considerations), Brewer made a few bullpen appearances for Arizona in 2013, then got smacked around at Reno last season (4.99 ERA, 96:34 K:BB ratio in 126.1 innings) in his third PCL stint. Like Oramas he doesn’t have a big fastball but does have three pitches that grade out as average or slightly better, and while the Indians have a number of starters ahead of him on the depth chart, they really don’t have anyone locked into their rotation other than Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. If the Bauers and Salazars in the system falter, Brewer could get his chance.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list, of course. Plenty of guys had unimpressive campaigns on the mound in the nastier PCL parks, but still retain some reason for optimism in their future outlook. The important thing to take away from last year’s trio of surprises is that if a pitcher gets an opportunity in a major league rotation, and you just take a quick look at his Triple-A numbers without considering the context, you could miss out on a very useful player.

One more thing: if you disregard the “without a big-time prospect pedigree” criteria, there were actually two other guys who might be bumped down on some cheat sheets lower than they should be. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard are among the Mets’ top young arms, but in a shallow league they might be dismissed as not quite ready to contribute due to their Triple-A numbers. Look again. Despite pitching in Las Vegas, Montero has managed a sub-3.50 ERA over 168.2 innings in the last two seasons, while Syndergaard kept his K/9 over 9.0 last year. That tells me that they are probably more than ready for the majors. In something like a 12-team mixed league, Syndergaard especially is worth gambling on with a later round pick.