Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Curmudgeon goes Prospecting

That guy who knows absolutely nothing about prospects who slams 90% of the prospects that you really like, is more likely to be right about their projection than you are. That man would be Senor Don Curmudgeon de la Vega.


Engel Beltre
Completely over-rated as an impact prospect at the plate. 4_5 OF in the NL. #9 hitter, with an OBP of .300, completely driven by his batting average. Speed doesn't translate to the base paths. Very poor pitch recognition skills, poor plate discipline, gap-only power. Slap hitter (59% gb), gets infield hits with speed but doesn't bunt or sacrifice well enough. Makeup issues, baseball IQ. Could he develop into a league-average CF at some point (2010 AL OPS CF min 400ab, .736)? Unlikely. Stated more positively, do you think he will develop into a better player than Borbon, who is likely a platoon player, but who hit only .660 vs RHP? Could Beltre become a starting CF somewhere in the majors with a .660 OPS? well Borbon's 120 starts suggest that yes, plus defense can earn you a start as only one club among 30 needs to go there and you've got yourself a job.

However, unlike what most people seem to think when they recycle old prospect reports about him from 2007, Beltre will have to earn his job as a fringy major league CF completely on the defensive end as he ain't going to hit well enough to be anything more than a #9 hitter who slaps at everything near the zone. It will only get more difficult for him: a full season of AA when other clubs know him a bit better than he knows himself, then on to AAA, where they will not pitch to his strengths, and into the bigs where he will simply be confused when his plus bat speed and contact ability are rendered mute by people who have mastered the craft in ways he will not.

Julio Borbon
.660 OPS vs RHP in 2010. He is what he is. Platoon player who should play about 100g and get you about 1.5 WAR, entirely from his defense. NEEDS A PLATOON PARTNER. Doesn't walk enough, doesn't work an at bat, not much patience. #9 hitter.

Moreland

May or may not be a platoon bat. They didn't give him a chance to play against LH SP until the playoffs so who knows. Battled LH really well in the minors according to some. Doubles hitter who will likely not hit more than 15HR. Never hit 20 HR in a minor league season. Hit 26hr in 166 games in A-ball. Hit 20hr in 168g in the upper minors. Led the organization in GIDP. Can be pitched effectively inside where he has trouble making contact. Sometimes a longish swing though is very effective with 2-strike approach. Does not have elite bat speed though some have commented that he has very strong hands/wrists. .879 OPS vs RHP. Which Moreland will we see in 2011 - August, 235/333/441/775; September, 257/379/500/879 ? If you were a bettin' man, err, person, you'd probably say that the league will catch up to the rookie, as they always do, with a .775 OPS vs RHP being a more likely outcome than an OPS of .879. He's likely to do much worse than that vs LHP if he isn't platooned.

So, as a full-time player, might we expect to see an OPS of .750? That would be an upgrade from what Davis, Smoak, Cantu, Arias, et al, offered up last year so that would count as an upgrade for 2011 but not league average (.811). His peripherals are all likely to regress next year as the league catches up to him, but it is a limited sample, all from one side, with one boom month, and one bust month, so .811 might not be out of his reach. I'm definitely rooting for him but an elite team shouldn't hang their hat on such things and needs a platoon bat to begin the season with a proper bench.

Scheppers

Pitched about 90 innings this year (including ~10 in instructs per Cole). Could he start for TX in the second half or will his depressed inning total relegate him to the pen? TX seems to believe in him as a starter though others do not. switched grips on his changeup per Cole (split grip, right around the same time Feliz switched to it last year in fact). He might be a little older but that doesn't really matter due to his draft/injury issues. He didn't become a full time starter until his JR year. So the you can wait on him if you believe he can wield a fringy changeup at least and if he has a feel for starting. All that really matters is that he is under control just as long as anyone else is beginning the day he signed and if he can't win a rotation spot until 2012, so what. I'm going against the majority here and say Scheppers will be a starter for TX out of ST in 2012 and will pitch like a 3_4 before having a breakout year in 2013. How good can he be? Depends on his command and mechanical consistency I would imagine, but there is no reason he couldn't develop into a #2. And to stop a trend, why not refuse to use Scheppers (and other developing starters for that matter) in the pen until the rosters expand, lest we see another starter get sucked out of his development program.

Perez
Struggled in 2010, really struggled with everything according to many reports. Some of Perez's value seems to lie in people's belief that he will be ready to break into the big leagues in 2012. But let's be realistic given his struggles. He shouldve pitched in HighA last year. AA in 2011 and AAA/bigs in 2012. So if you look at it like that, he is right on track, (though you really have to question the wisdom of having him skip Bakersfield even as dreary as it was. Developmentally, one wonders whether he progressed or not last year?) He likely won't break into the bigs as a starter until 2013 and even then it is unlikely that he becomes an elite starter (whatever that is for him #1 or #2, likely not an ace though due to his size, which is not to say that he won't be durable, but that #1 starters and Aces tend to be very big and strong, and Perez is not). So you're talking about a kid who might have his first breakout season in the bigs in 2014. Can you wait that long?

Derek Holland
Remember when Holland and Feliz were battling Cahill and Anderson for "best ace combo" back in 2008. In terms of value, Oakland has clearly won that battle, as Feliz is not starting, and Holland has not started well. We should probably talk about some issues the club seems to have with its development philosophy, always whining about not having starters, or being unable to pay them, and unwilling to pay relievers as they are not as valuable, while developing all their top starters into relievers. Hmmm. We'll save that for another post. In Holland's case, the club deserves some criticism for rushing him and then allowing him to get away from his strengths (fastball/changeup) while fumbling around with a curveball and not focusing on improving his slider. In addition, He has also shown some makeup issues: does he have the baseball IQ and whatever else it requires to become a #2 or a #3 starter? I'm going to say that Holland is a #4. And it hurts me to say that.

Hunter
his success in 2009 was in part due to the debut of a cutter but also due to the progress of his changeup. In 2010, we saw him do really well when really lucky in the first half of the season, and completely implode in the second half of the season, giving up like 15 homers in 7 games at one point - More homers in a 2-week stretch than anyone might have imagined possible, even if the name were Eric Hurley. This year we also saw him abandon the changeup, whether due to insufficient supervision, or due to lost feel for the pitch, I'm not sure. He also pitched up in the zone way too much. So all of this suggests to me that Tommy Hunter is basically a #5 starter and I would expect him to put up an FIP of about 5 from here on out


Craig Gentry
4A CF. Plus defense keeps him in AAA as a viable emergency backup but he'll never het well enough to play much on the big club. He'll be the Gregorio Petit of CF. Jamie Newberg used to include him on one of his interminable Greinke trade proposals. I think that has stopped now.

Leury Garcia
Jamie Newberg thinks he's a legitimate prospect so ask him. Problem: will never hit above highA; completely overrated hands (don't believe it's all about the bad throws). Occasionally you'll see a Newberg trade prosposal that includes him. Hopefully this will stop soon.


Jurickson Profar
Best second base prospect in the system. Could play plus defense at that spot with a plus arm for third, but likely not the bat. Inconsistent in debut with very nice gap power from one side. Some contact problems but nice walk rate. With his frame, I doubt he develops more than fringe-average power at that position in the bigs. If he developed into a kid with an average bat for Second (734 ops) with plus defense, that would be pretty good. For those that think KC is dreaming of Profar, well, that is too much risk for them to take, unloading an ace and getting a kid fresh out of short season, whose ceiling is that of an above average second basemen with not a lot of physical projection when they could have so many others. Check back in one year.

Luis Sardinas
Best shortstop prospect in the system. Might project to play plus ML defense at that spot, above average if you want to play it conservatively. Fast, Rangy, could be a prototypical lead off hitter. Tall and skinny, might end up looking like Arias, but not with the premature aging thing, and more freckles. Has always looked good at the plate from one side, with gap power. Can he project to play at least above average defense at short, and manage a league average .670 OPS to start in the bigs? Sure, why not, Elvis put up a .640 OPS/ 1.5 WAR season in 2010. Injuries cost him this year though, 1/2 the season, plus part of instructs and the off-season. He's plenty advanced to play in Hickory next year (much more advanced than Leury Garcia was/is during his 2 years there) but injuries might have cost him the opportunity to push the issue. As for KC's inerest in our other short-season millon dollar man? See Profar above but also add in the injuries to further muddy up their interest. Check back in one year.

Michael Kirkman
Horrible command vs RHH and below average changeup. Should stick in AAA for the first 3 months to see if he can pull it together. Has an excellent slider and fastball when his command is on. What is his ceiling, probably a #4 due to his command or some kind of bullpen arm, hopefully the setup kind, not the more fringy command middle reliever kind.

Matt Harrison
Another kid, who might have been rushed, and who the club failed to supervise closely enough after he arrived. Got fat during his first off-season, and forgot about what got him there: Fastball/Changeup. Fooled around with a curveball and a cutter, when they club should have made him stick to his guns in addition to kicking the cookie habit. Injury prone, not aggressive enough, doesn't pitch inside enough, doesn't pitch off his fastball enough, which is to say, he likely does not have the makeup to be a starter, though the club should continue to run him out there in that capacity in AAA next year.


Do you sense a trend here that suggests some problems in the program of development for starting pitchers once they make it out of AA, Feliz, Harrison, Hunter, Holland (and Hurley before them)? Rushed to the bullpen when they should be starting, moved to the rotation when they should be in the minors, sent back to the bullpen when they should be starting, getting away from what brought 'em, more pitches added when focus is needed...I'd call it a trend. Are Kirkman, Scheppers, and Perez (already rushed) next? That would be the second problematic trend to emerge is Texas' vaunted minor league system over the last three years. The first? Failure to evaluate and develop catchers. The third problem that might have emerged this year, but I hope it is a Tom Hicks one-off (that bastard): dumping prospects like Main (setup arm?) and Poveda (#4) for retreads.



Senor Don Curmudgeon de la Vega signing off.





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