Results tagged ‘ Baseball America ’
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman/right fielder/shortstop Ben Zobrist has been one of the most productive, versatile, and underrated players in baseball over the past five seasons. It is amazing to see how the man called Zorilla went from a non-prospect to compiling nearly 26 WAR over the past four seasons.
Zobrist grew up in Eureka, Illinois and attended Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois for three years where he pitched, and played shortstop and second base. In the summer after his Junior season, Zobrist played outfield for the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League, where he was voted team MVP as he led his team to the Northwoods League Championship. At the end of the season, Zobrist was named a Small College All-American at second base. For his senior year, Zobrist attended Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas, which has produced a number of baseball players, including Lew Ford and Freddy Sanchez, where he played shortstop.
Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 6th round, 184th overall, of the 2004 draft, immediately in front of Cla Meredith. Zobrist signed quickly, as is common with college seniors who were not drafted in the first few rounds, and was assigned to the Tri-City Valley Cats of the short-season A New York-Penn League. Zobrist displayed a keen batting eye, solid contact rate, and enough range to stay at shortstop en route to a 339/438/463 season where he walked 43 times and struck out only 31 across 310 games. After the season, Zobrist was named to the short season A All-Star team, as Baseball America ranked Zobrist the #5 prospect in the New York-Penn League and the #16 prospect in the Astros organization.
For 2005, Zobrist opened the season with the Lexington Legends of the full season A South Atlantic League, where he continued to put up solid numbers, hitting 304/415/413 across 310 plate appearances before being promoted to the Salem Avalanche of the high A Carolina League, where he continued his torrid hitting, putting up a 333/475/496 line with 37 walks and 17 strikeouts. After the season, Baseball America ranked Zobrist as the #16 prospect in the Astros system and said that he has the “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in the Astros’ system.
For 2006, Zobrist was assigned to the AA Corpus Christi Hooks of the AA Texas League, where he continued to hit, putting up a 327/434/473 line before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with Mitch Talbot in exchange for Aubrey Huff and cash. As a show of respect for the prospect status of Zobrist and Talbot, ESPN referred to the Devil Rays’ newest acquisitions as “two minor league prospects” and did not refer to them by name until the fifth(!) paragraph. Zobrist played for the Durham Bulls of the AAA International League for the next two weeks, when he was called up by the Devil Rays to play shortstop. Zobrist appeared in 52 games, putting up a 224/260/311 line for the remainder of the season. After the season, Baseball America ranked Zobrist as having the “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in the Texas League, but did not rank him otherwise as he had exhausted his prospect eligibility when he lost his rookie status. Despite only playing 83 games for Corpus Christi, Zobrist was named to the Texas League All-Star team as its Utility player (the All Star at shortstop was Brandon Wood).
In 2007, Zobrist opened the season as the starting shortstop for the Devil Rays but struggled early, and was sent down to AAA Durham Bulls when he had a 159/156/222 line after the game on May 10. While in AAA, Zobrist hit 279/403/455 before being promoted to start the July 30 game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Zobrist played in most of the games until August 18, when he strained his right oblique, ending his season. Zobrist’s final line for the 2007 season while playing for the Devil Rays was a disaster, as his 155/184/206 line created an OPS+ of 4, one of the worst in the major leagues for all non-pitchers.
In 2008, Zobrist was slated to become the “super utility man” for the newly minted Tampa Bay Rays when he fractured the top of his left thumb, forcing him to miss the first month of the season. After a four-game rehab assignment for the Vero Beach Devil Rays, Zobrist returned to the Rays, playing inconsistently but hitting well enough to put up a 267/353/400 line through May 28. Zobrist was sent down to AAA Durham and promoted reliever Grant Balfour. Zobrist was only in the minor leagues for about a month, as he started the June 25 game against the Florida Marlins, going 2/6 with a home run. For the rest of the season, Zobrist hit 251/338/514 with 12 home runs, the most he hit on any level to that point (in fact, Zobrist’s previous high was eight total in 2007). Zobrist’s final line for 2008 was 253/339/505, good for an OPS+ of 120. By this point, many viewed Zobrist’s defense at shortstop as sub-par and his “super utility” role took hold, as Zobrist appeared in 35 games at shortstop, 14 in left field, eight at second base, five in center field, two in right field, one at third base, and two at DH.
In 2009, Zobrist’s “super utility” role continued, though he was primarily a second baseman and a right fielder, with as he appeared in 1,044 of his 1,209.1 innings (86.4%) at one of the two positions. Zobrist flourished in the rule, putting up a 297/405/543 line with 27 home runs and 17 stolen bases, being elected to his first MLB All-Star Game and placing eighth in the MVP vote, despite having a WAR higher than the winner, Joe Mauer (about 30% of Zobrist’s WAR was attributable to playing second base). Zobrist was also the Tampa Bay Rays player of the year.
After his breakout season, Zobrist and the Rays began negotiating a new contract. Though Zobrist was not yet eligible for arbitration, the Rays are well known for signing players to team-friendly extensions that guarantee financial security for players. In late April, Zobrist and the Rays agreed to a three year extension that left his 2010 salary at $438,100, but increased his salaries to $4.5 million in 2011, $4.5 million for 2012, and $5.5 million for 2013. The Rays also received a $7 million option for 2014 (with a $2.5 million buyout) and a $7.5 million option for 2015 (with a $500k buyout). Zobrist struggled out of the gate, putting up a 241/327/356 line in April, then a robust 352/400/514 line in May. Zobrist’s struggles continued as he put up a 177/294/293 line after the All-Star break en route to a 238/346/353 line for the season, with his batting average and home runs dipping significantly. Zobrist’s defensive flexibility – he played 371 innings at second base and 749.1 in right field out of his 1294.2 – kept his value high, as his 4.2 WAR was fueled nearly as much by his defense (1.4 dWAR) as his offense (2.5 oWAR).
Zobrist bounced back in 2011, putting up a 369/353/469 line while playing second base in 79% of his 1348 innings (not counting his time at DH) and right field the rest of his time playing.
In 2012, Zobrist has his to a similar line as 2011, putting up a 271/376/466 through September 26 while playing mostly right field (42% of innings). The interesting thing about Zobrist is that he shortstop for 26% of innings, a position he has not played for any extended period of time since 2008. Zobrist has been the Rays’ primary shortstop since August 9, during which he has hit exceptionally well, putting up a 311/378/518 line, well above his career 260/254/441 line.
But what should we expect from Zobrist going forward? Is he the 260/354/441 player his career line suggests? If he the 300/400/500 perennial All-Star that his recent play suggests? I think he is neither. I this he’s closer to the 269/369/457 line that he has put up from 2009-2012. Sure, Zobrist won’t be a Hall of Famer, but in an era with hyper-specialized bullpens, a player who can hit and play multiple positions that require real defensive ability has a lot of value. The Rays should be commended for trading for him and, possibly more importantly, being willing to give him time to develop.
In many ways Adrian Beltre has had five distinct parts to his career: (1) Signing out of the Dominican Republic and his rapid ascension to the major leagues; (2) Inconsistency with the Dodgers; (3) MVP-caliber 2004 season and his massive contract with the Mariners; (4) Offensive struggles with the Mariners as he became a defensive stalwart; and (5) Signing with the Red Sox and offensive awakenings.
Adrian Beltre was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Dodgers in 1994 for $23,000 at the age of 15, in direct contravention of MLB rules, which require the signee to be at least 16 at the time of the signing. As a result, MLB suspended the Dodgers’ scouting operations in the Dominican Republic for a year, though they were allowed to retain Beltre.
Beltre did not make his state-side debut until 1996, when he debuted for the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. As the youngest player in the league, Beltre hit 307/406/586 across 68 games, mashing 14 doubles and 16 home runs. After being promoted to the San Bernardino Stampede of the high A California League, Beltre put up a 261/322/450 line across 63 games despite being the youngest player in the league by nearly two full years (he was 12 days shy of two years younger than Dennys Reyes, the next youngest player). After the season, prospect rankers raved about his batting eye, power, and defensive potential. Baseball America ranked him the #30 prospect in baseball, between Dmitri “Da Meat Hook” Young and Mike Cameron and lauding his potential.
In 1997, Beltre spent the season with the high A Vero Beach Dodgers of the offense-suffocating Florida State League, putting up a sparkling 317/407/561 line while hitting 24 doubles and 26 home runs, stealing 25 bases, and walking more times than he struck out (67-66). After the season, Beltre was on the short list of the top prospects in baseball. His offensive upside became even more apparent, though his defensive shortcomings became more apparent. However, many felt that he would become an average defensive third baseman with elite offensive output. Baseball America ranked Beltre the #3 prospect in baseball, behind only A’s uber-prospect Ben Grieve and Dodgers 1b/3b prospect Paul Konerko, though ahead of Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and Pirates 3b Aramis Ramirez.
In 1998, Beltre began the year with the AA San Antonio Missions of the Texas League, where the offensive onslaught continued, as Beltre hit 321/411/581 with 21 doubles, 13 home runs, and 20 stolen bases during the first 64 games of the season. Beltre showed his amazing eye and bat control with 39 walks and 37 strikeouts before being promoted to Los Angeles, where he struggled, hitting 215/278/369 as the youngest player in the Major Leagues by more than one full year (over Aramis Ramirez). Despite his struggles in the major leagues, his prospect stock did not decrease in the slightest, with many penciling Beltre into the middle of the Dodgers’ order for the next decade.
In 1999, Beltre’s first full season was much more successful than his previous, putting up a respectable 275/352/428 line (OPS+ 102) while hitting 27 doubles and 15 home runs. In 2000, Beltre had his best year yet, putting up a 290/360/475 line, as if the best was right around the corner. Unfortunately, Beltre seemingly regressed over the next three seasons, putting up a 265/310/411 line in 2001, a 257/303/426 line in 2002, and a 240/290/424 line in 2003.
In 2004, Beltre had a season that anyone trying to prove that the “contract year phenomenon” is real would love to use as an example. Beltre set career highs across the board, putting up a 334/388/629 line while hitting 32 doubles and 48 home runs, putting up an OPS+ of 163. It appeared as if Beltre finally put it all together and he came in second place in the NL MVP vote (to Barry Bonds, who walked 232 times en route to a 362/609/812 line). After the season, Beltre signed a five year contract with the Seattle Mariners for $64 million that included a $7 million signing bonus.
In Seattle, Beltre’s performance was underwhelming, particularly considering his salary. In 2005, Beltre hit 255/303/413 while struggling with hamstring issues. In 2006, Beltre hit 268/328/465, a solid season, but hardly the season the mariners wanted when they agreed to the contract. Beltre was earning is contract in other ways, as he became known as one of the best defensive third basement in the league. In 2007, Beltre hit a respectable 276/319/482 with 41 doubles and 26 home runs, while winning his first gold glove. In 2008, belter hit 266/327/457 while winning his second gold glove. In 2009, Beltre struggled to stay healthy, missing time due to inflammation and, eventually, surgery on his left shoulder to remove bone spurs, and what can only be termed a “fractured groin.”
In the off season, Beltre signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox for $10 million, with a $5 million player option for 2011. In Boston, everything finally seemed to click for Beltre as he put up a 321/365/553 line with a career high 49 doubles and 28 home runs, the second most of his career. Finishing ninth in the AL MVP vote, Beltre declined his 2011 option with the Red Sox and became a free agent.
The Texas Rangers signed Beltre, only 31 years old despite being having just completed his 13th season in the major leagues, to a six year contract valued at $96 million. Since the signing of the contract with the Rangers, Beltre has thrived, putting up a 296/331/561 line in 2011 while winning his third gold glove and silver slugger awards. So far in 2012, Beltre has continued putting up monster numbers, with a 320/357/561 line with 32 home runs and 30 doubles through 139 games.
So what do we make of Adrian Beltre? Is he a late bloomer who took nearly a decade to reach his potential? Did he actually figure it out in 2004, with injuries and pressure conspiring to adversely impact his performance? More importantly, what can we learn from Adrian Beltre? Are there other players who would benefit from extra time to figure it out? Was he rushed to the major leagues because the Dodgers were starting Bobby Bonilla at third base at the time?
The short answer is that Beltre was a tremendous talent who forced his way to the major leagues by absolutely destroying the ball, and a combination of injuries and the incredible amount of talent at the major league level made it difficult for Beltre to succeed.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
When people look back at the trade that brought Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves, people talk about Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison; but at the time of the trade the main prospect was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or as he is often known (probably due to his impressively long and difficult to spell last name), Salty.
Ever since he was drafted out of Royal Palm Beach High School by the Atlanta Braves in 2003, Saltalamacchia has been viewed as a potential middle of the order slugger who may be able to remain a catcher. Saltalamacchia signed quickly for $950,000 and appeared in 46 games for the Rookie League GCL Braves, putting up a 239/382/396, showcasing a willingness to walk and some decent power with 11 doubles. After the season, Baseball America ranked Saltalamacchia the #3 prospect in the GCL and the #19 prospect in the Braves’ system.
For 2004, the Braves assigned Saltalamacchia to the Rome Braves of the Sally League, where he shows a little power (19 doubles and 10 homers over 366 PA), some patience (34 walks), and enough defensive chops to keep him firmly entrenched as the Braves catcher of the future. After the season, Baseball America ranked Saltalamacchia the #9 prospect in the Braves system and the #7 prospect in the Sally League.
For 2005, the Braves assigned Saltalamacchia to the high A Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League, where he exploded, putting up a 314/394/519 line across 529 plate appearances while hitting 35 doubles and 19 home runs. Baseball America took notice, ranking Saltalamacchia the #1 Braves prospect, the #1 prospect in the Carolina League, and giving Saltalamacchia the “Best Hitter for Average” superlative after the season. Baseball America also ranked Saltalamacchia the #18 prospect in all of baseball (between Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche), firmly establishing his prospect status.
In 2006, Saltalamacchia was promoted to the AA Mississippi Braves of the Southern League, where he struggled, putting up a 230/353/380 line while he struggled with injuries. Though none of them were considered career threatening, Saltalamacchia had a down season. After the season, Saltalamacchia was again ranked the Braves #1 prospect and the “Best Hitter for Average” in the Braves system by Baseball America, which also ranked him the #10 prospect in the Southern League and the #36 prospect in all of baseball (between Jeff Niemann and Jacob McGee).
In 2007, Saltalamacchia returned to the AA Mississippi Braves and returned to form, putting up an amazing 309/404/617 line before being called up by the Atlanta Braves, where he put up a 284/333/411 line while splitting time between catcher and first base. On July 31, 2007, Saltalamacchia was dealt along with Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison to the Texas Rangers for Ron Mahay and Mark Teixeira. Saltalamacchia spent the rest of the season with the Rangers, putting up a respectable if unimpressive 251/290/431 line for the rest of the season, splitting his time nearly evenly between first base and catcher.
In 2008, Saltalamacchia opened the season with the Oklahoma RedHawks (yes, apparently it is one word), putting up a 291/391/491 line across 15 games before being brought back up to Texas. Saltalamacchia served as the Rangers starter when healthy, putting up a 253/352/364 line. Saltalamacchia was injured much of the season, with a bruised hand, a groin strain, a broken bone in his foot, and an elbow issue.
In 2009, Saltalamacchia was the Rangers’ primary catcher, putting up a 233/290/371 line. At the end of the 2009 season, Saltalamacchia was a 24 year old catcher with a career 251/314/389 line, good for an OPS+ of 83. Furthermore, Saltalamacchia’s skills behind the plate were not improving as the Rangers had hoped; making many wonder if he would ever develop into anything resembling what he displayed in 2005.
After the second game of the season, Saltalamacchia was placed on the DL with upper back stiffness. After being activated, Saltalamacchia was sent to the Rangers AAA affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, where he put up an unimpressive 248/319/453 line, displaying good power, some patience, and too much swing-and-miss. On July 31, the Rangers dealt Saltalamacchia to the Boston Red Sox for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, Michael Thomas, and cash. Saltalamacchia spent the next month playing sparingly for the Pawtucket Red Sox (or, as they’re more commonly known, the PawSox) of the AAA International League, putting up a 278/350/500 line before being called up to Boston, where he put up a 158/360/316 line across 10 games.
In 2011, Saltalamacchia experienced a rebirth of sorts, putting up a 235/288/450 line as the Red Sox’s primary catcher, showing good power with 23 doubles and 16 home runs, but little patience (24 walks in 358 PA) and a lot of swing-and-miss (119 strikeouts, or more than 33% of his at bats).
The Red Sox were sufficiently pleased with his play that they signed him to a $2.5 million contract in the off season, thereby avoiding arbitration. Through September 13, Saltalamacchia has a 229/290/475 line with 15 doubles and 24 home runs for the Red Sox for 2012.
But what do we make of Jarrod Saltalamacchia? While he was once compared to Joe Mauer and Jason Varitek due to his sweet swing, good plate discipline, and power, Saltalamacchia’s ceiling may be more similar to a lower batting average version of Jorge Posada. Of course, any time a catcher can play good defense and put up near-league-average offensive numbers, that player can expect a long, prosperous career.
As for now, all we can do is say that Jarrod Saltalamacchia appears to be the perfect example of the “Post Hype Prospect,” a player who once showed the upside of a perennial All-Star, struggled, and has become at least a solid major league regular.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
As the career of Chipper Jones comes to a close, it is amazing to look back at how he went from a consolation price as the #1 pick in the draft to a first ballot Hall of Famer.
While it is easy to look back at the 1990 MLB draft and say “of course Chipper was the #1 pick,” Jones was not the top prospect in the draft, that honor went to Todd Van Poppel, who told the Atlanta Braves not to pick him, as he would go to college at the University of Texas rather than sign with the Braves. Instead the Braves went the quasi-local route, taking Jacksonville, Florida-native shortstop with the first pick. After signing for a $275,000 bonus (Van Poppel got $1.4 million from the A’s, who took him with the 14th pick), Jones was assigned to the Rookie League GCL Braves, where he proceeded to not hit, putting up a 229/321/271 line across 164 PA while getting hit by the pitch six times, setting a career high (which is a testament to the poor command of young pitchers more than anything else). Baseball America was not deterred by his poor performance and ranked Jones the #49 prospect in baseball, between Jeff Juden and Robbie Beckett (Van Poppel was #1, with fellow Braves prospect Ryan Klesko as #3).
Undeterred by his slow start, the Braves sent Jones to the full season A Macon Braves of the South Atlantic League. Jones terrorized Sally League pitchers, putting up a 326/407/518 line with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 15 home runs, and 40 stolen bases. More amazingly, Jones walked 69 times with 70 strikeouts – nearly a 1:1 ratio. As a result, Jones jumped up the prospect rankings, as Baseball America ranked Jones the #4 prospect in baseball, behind only Brien Taylor (the 1991 #1 pick), Van Poppel, and Roger Salkeld. The #10 prospect was an undersized righty in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Pedro Martinez.
To start 1992, Jones was assigned to play for the high A Durham Bulls of the Carolina League, where he put up a 277/353/413 line across 70 games, before being promoted to the AA Greenville Braves of the Southern League. Jones caught fire in Greenville, putting up a 346/367/594 line with 17 doubles, 11 triples, and nine home runs in 67 games. For the season, the 20-year old Jones hit 311/360/504 with 39 doubles, 12 triples, and 13 home runs across two levels. After the season, Baseball America ranked Jones the #1 prospect in baseball, ahead of Brien Taylor (#2), Cliff Floyd (#3), Carlos Delgado (#4 – as a catcher), and Tim Salmon (#5). Van Poppel dropped to #7 in the new ranking as his star began to wane, while one of the hottest prospects was a corner outfielder in the Cleveland Indians’ organization named Manny Ramirez.
In 1993, Jones was assigned to the AAA Richmond Braves of the International League, and he picked up where he left off in 1992, putting up a 325/387/500 line while hitting 31 doubles, 12 triples, and 13 home runs. Jones earned a September cup of coffee, hitting a robust 667/750/1000 across four plate appearances (one single, one double, one walk, and one strikeout) as a 21-year old. After the season, Jones was picked as the #2 prospect in baseball, as Cliff Floyd passed him on the strength of a 329/417/600 season year in AA.
After Braves’ starting left fielder Ron Gant broke his leg in an off-season dirt bike accident, Jones was expected to compete to start in left field, but tore the ACL in his left knee in spring training and missed the entire 1994 season. Despite this setback, Jones was still the #3 prospect in baseball for 1995, with only Alex Rodriguez (#1) and Ruben Rivera (#2) ahead of him, and Derek Jeter (#4) directly behind him. Jones opened the season as the Braves starting third baseman and never looked back, putting up a 265/353/450 line (OPS+ 108) while coming in second place in the NL Rookie of the Year vote behind Hideo Nomo en route to hitting 389/450/833 in the NLDS win over the Colorado Rockies, 438/526/625 in the NLCS victory over the Cincinnati Reds, and 286/385/429 in the World Series win over the Cleveland Indians.
From there, Jones became a true middle of the order hitter for the next 15 years, putting up a 314/411/555 line with an OPS+ of 148 from 1996-2008, which includes an MVP in 1999, leading the league in OPS (1029) and OPS+ (165) in 2007, and batting average (.364) and OBP (.470) in 2008. After three sub-par seasons (well, for Jones, most players would love to put up OPS+’s of 117, 120, and 121), Jones is going out with a flourish in 2012, with a 301/381/500 line through August 28rd.
While he will never be known as a great defender, Jones became a sure-handed defender at third base who could fill in a shortstop in a pinch, though he was banished to left field for two seasons.
But how will Chipper Jones be remembered? Will he be remembered as a middle of the order threat that was never able to win that second World Series ring? Will he be remembered as the guy who tortured the Mets with a career 314/410/553 line (though in my head it seems like his line was actually 400/600/1000) or as the “cheap” #1 overall pick that worked? In the end, most people are unaware that Jones was not the top prospect in the 1990 draft and view Jones as guy who just went out there and played as much as he could, and doing pretty well when it counted, putting up a 288/411/459 line in the post season.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Tyler Skaggs began his Major League career about as well as he could have hoped – 6.2 innings, two runs, three hits, five walks, and four strikeouts – and a win for his team. Despite having his Major League debut shortly after his 21st birthday, Skaggs was not always looked upon as a top prospect – more of a good prospect with a lot of upside. The amazing thing about Skaggs is that he is the rare projectable prospect who experiences the uptick in velocity, improved command and control, and pitch quality that allows him to jump up the prospect rankings.
Just before his 18th birthday, Skaggs was drafted out of Santa Monica, California by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 40th pick of the 2009 draft, the Angels’ third pick in the first round. The first pick was Randal Grichuk (#24), followed by Mike Trout (#25). After Skaggs, the Angels picked Garrett Richards (#42) and Tyler Kehrer (#48) in the supplemental first round. Skaggs signed for $1 million and was assigned to the Orem Owlz (yes, Owlz) of the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where Skaggs appeared in two games allowing four runs (two earned) across four innings, striking out six. Skaggs was then assigned to the AZL Angels (not Angelz), where he appeared in three more games, starting two, allowing no runs across six innings and striking out seven.
Viewed as a lefty with a low-90s fastball with a projectable frame, prospect prognosticators were cautiously optimistic about Skaggs’ future. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #9 prospect in the Angels’ system, stating that “Skaggs oozes projection,” noting his fastball “should gain a few ticks” and that Skaggs’ “command and control” were above average for a teenager. Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #8 prospect in the Angels’ organization, noting his potential to move up significantly.
In 2010, the Angels assigned the 18-year old Skaggs to the Cedar Rapids Kernals of the full-season A Midwest League, where Skaggs began showing his potential. Skaggs began the season pitching very well, and his prospect status began to climb. After his start on May 24, Skaggs’ season line sat at a 2.37 ERA with 41 strikeouts and nine walks across 38 innings. Skaggs had a respectable 3.61 ERA across 82.1 innings with 82 innings when it was announced he had been traded. Skaggs was the Player to be Named Later in the August 10 trade between the Angels and Diamondbacks, where the Angels acquired Dan Haren for Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders, and a PTBNL (Skaggs).
Skaggs was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest league and dominated for the rest of the season, allowing only three runs in his final 16 innings, striking out 20. Skaggs cumulative line and great outings at the end of the season bumped up his prospect status. Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #82 prospect (between Matt Dominguez and Chris Dwyer) in baseball, along with the #10 prospect in the Midwest League, the #2 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, and as having the Best Curveball in the Diamondbacks’ system. BP’s Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #83 prospect in baseball, between Delino DeShields and Dee Gordon. Goldstein lauded Skaggs’ “slow, classic 12-6 [curveball] with heavy drop that generates plenty of bad swings,” and ability to throw both his fastball and curveball for strikes.
For 2011, Skaggs was assigned to the high-A Visalia Rawhide of the hitter-friendly California League, where he continued his quality pitching, putting up a 3.22 ERA and striking out 125 (11.2k/9) in 100.2 innings before being promoted to the AA Mobile Bay Bears of the AA Southern League. In AA, Skaggs pitched even better, putting up a 2.50 ERA across 57.2 innings, striking out 73 (11.4k/9). After the season, the accolades came in, as Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #13 prospect in baseball, the #1 prospect in the California League, and the #2 prospect in the Southern League, while noting that Skaggs had the “Best Breaking Pitch” and was the “Best Pitching Prospect” in the California League. BP was just as complimentary, ranking Skaggs #21 overall, between Nolan Arenado and Billy Hamilton, noting that while his fastball used to sit in the average range (89-91), it now “sits in the 91-94mph range with a bit of natural sinking action.” Kevin Goldstein continued, stating that Skaggs can drop his “plus-plus overhand curveball … into the zone for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch.” In ranking Goldstein called Skaggs a potential “star-level starting pitcher.”
For 2012, Skaggs was sent back to the AA Mobile Bay Bears, where he dominated, putting up a 2.84 ERA across 69 innings, striking out 71 (9.2k/9) before being promoted to the AAA Reno Aces of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In Reno, Skaggs continued to pitch well, putting up a 2.91 ERA across 52.2 innings while striking out 45 before being promoted to Arizona.
In Skaggs’ first start, ESPN’s Keith Law noted Skaggs’ success:
Skaggs looked very sharp in the first- 91-93 and commanding the curveball—
(@keithlaw) August 22, 2012
Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein noted how much he liked Skaggs’ curveball, stating:
Baseball America’s Jim Callis lauded Skaggs’ command and control, stating that Skaggs “has better control and command than Bauer, so Skaggs might be better equipped to make a smoother transition to the big leagues” than Bauer.
So what should we expect from Skaggs for the future? Skaggs should fit in nicely in the Diamondbacks top-flight rotation of the future with Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy, and Trevor Cahill. Will he become a #1 pitcher? Probably not, but early returns and projections suggest he could become a solid #2, the guy you would love to give the ball to for Game 2 of a postseason series.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
The moment it happens, you realize your team isn’t going to make that final push to the playoffs and it’s time to look forward to 2013 (and beyond) in an attempt to keep your team competitive for years to come. It happened to me in the winter between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and since then I have dealt Yovani Gallardo, Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Beltran (acquired in the Gallardo deal), and Matt Cain to acquire Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Manny Banuelos (who was dealt to get Michael Choice), Jean Segura, Gary Sanchez, Eric Hosmer, Shelby Miller, and Francisco Lindor (amongst others).
Below is a brief list of players you may want to consider who should be up in the next two seasons that could make a big impact on your team, and another list for players who are much, much further away.
2013/2014 Call Ups
Tyler Skaggs (ARI – LHP) – Initially drafted by the Angels in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft (the Mike Trout draft) and dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, Skaggs has dominated at every level. While Trevor Bauer has received all of the headlines, Skaggs has quietly dominated in his 52.2 innings, striking out 45, walking 16, and putting up a 2.91 ERA in the offense-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League. Skaggs may not open the year with the Diamondbacks, but, barring injury, he won’t be in the minor leagues for long.
Zack Wheeler (NYM – RHP) – The Mets got Wheeler in the Carlos Beltran deal last July and he has not disappointed (unless you’re a Giants fan). In 116 innings for AA Binghamton, Wheeler put up a 3.26 ERA while striking out 117 across 116 innings. Since his promotion to AAA, Wheeler has had two starts. He allowed 2 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start, and then allowed one run over six innings in his second start. Wheeler may open the year in Queens, especially given the Mets’ dedication to youth.
Shelby Miller (STL – RHP) – The 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Miller has been moving up prospect rankings every year. After an amazing 2011 – a combined 170 strikeouts while dominating High A and AA across 139.2 innings, Miller has looked merely human lately, putting up a 5.23 ERA across 112 innings. But that does not tell the whole story, as he has been much better as of late, causing rumors of a September call-up. I think Keith Law’s tweets will help elucidate:
Sorry, grammar fail here – I heard that tonight, but Miller was 94-97 on *Saturday* night—
(@keithlaw) August 14, 2012
Casey Kelly (SDP – RHP) – If you think Miller’s year has been up and down, the ultra athletic Kelly’s season has been even more up and down. After dominating in spring training, Kelly hurt his elbow after two great AAA outings. After three tune-up outings in Rookie ball, Kelly threw five innings in AA on August 10, striking out four and facing only 16 batters. Kelly looks like a good bet to start the 2013 in San Diego, and will benefit from playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league.
Jurickson Profar (TEX – SS) – On most teams, Profar would be getting called up now, if not a guaranteed call up in September, but the Rangers have Elvis Andrus, who is also quite good. As far as shortstops go, Profar is the total package: smooth defense, good speed, average to plus power, and a great hit tool. His ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star. When does he come up? That all depends…
Billy Hamilton (CIN – SS) – The fastest player in organized baseball presents a fascinating conundrum for the Reds’ front office. They can bring him up for the September stretch run and use him as an extra infielder and pinch runner extraordinaire, or keep Hamilton in the minor leagues until next season. Of course, Hamilton is more than just pure speed, after hitting 323/413/439 in the hyper-inflated offensive environment of the California League, Hamilton has hit 289/410/412 in AA. With 139 stolen bases, Hamilton is just six behind what is believed to be the minor league record of 145, set by Vince Coleman in 1983. When will Hamilton come up? My guess is mid-2013, but having a pinch runner like Hamilton would cause absolute chaos in October.
Hak-Ju Lee (TBR – SS) – The main talent acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Lee shot up the prospect rankings due to his smooth defense and hitting in 2011, putting up a 318/389/443 like in the pitching-friendly High A Florida State League. Despite a 261/336/360 line in 2012 while in AA, Lee hit better as the year wore on, putting up a 330/387/450 line in June and a 292/391/434 line in July. Lee is also blocked by former #1 pick Tim Beckham, who is the shortstop in AAA, but Beckham is hitting 255/332/332 and was suspended for marijuana use. While Lee is widely considered to be an above average defensive shortstop, Beckham is viewed as more of a utility infielder, significantly decreasing the chance that Lee will need to get past Beckham.
Wil Myers (KCR – OF) – After an injury limited Myers to a 254/353/393 line in 2011, Myers returned to AA to start 2012 and put up a 343/414/731 line across 35 games before being promoted to AAA, where he continued to hit, putting up a 300/377/572 line in 80 games. While only Jeff Francoeur stands in his way, the Royals seem unwilling to bring up Myers and start his march toward arbitration during a losing season. Expect Myers to be promoted in September, though his role may be undetermined as the season draws to a close.
Oscar Taveras (STL – OF) – After a 386/444/584 showing in A during 2011, Taveras has destroyed AA as a 20 year old in 2012, putting up a 321/382/574 line while primarily playing center field. Though viewed as someone who will eventually need to move to right field, Taveras is widely viewed as one of the best pure hitters (if not the best pure hitter) in the minor leagues with an upside that is that of a perennial MVP candidate. To quote Jason Parks, “His swing is going to bother scouts up the chain, and he’s also going to hit all the way up the chain. It’s not always pretty, and he swings the bat like he’s trying to kill someone breaking into his home, but it works.”
Dylan Bundy (BAL – RHP) – While Orioles fans are advocating for Dylan Bundy to be called up to help out in the bullpen in September, Bundy’s future lies as a Cy Young candidate-caliber pitcher for the next decade, becoming the next face of the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, that is if Dan Duquette allows Bundy to use his best pitch.
Miguel Sano (MIN – 3B) – Who is leading the Midwest League in home runs, RBI, and extra base hits (ok, he’s tied)? Miguel Sano. Who is leading the Midwest League in walks and second in strikeouts? Miguel Sano He turned 19 in May, he will probably end up as a right fielder, and he has 80 power (just ask Kevin Goldstein). His power, and the Twins’ lack of talent will get him to the majors by the end of 2014, and he’ll be there to stay.
Austin Hedges (SDP – C) – I know what you’re thinking, how can a guy hitting 253/313/426 in A ball be in the major leagues in two years? Simple – he’s the best defensive catcher current in the minors (well, of potential prospects, 35 year old veterans need not apply). With San Diego’s pitching prospects, it may make sense to push Hedges quickly and start building trust to help San Diego compete in the future.
Anthony Rendon (WAS – 3B) – Possibly the only player who can stake a claim to the best pure hitter in the minors other than Taveras, Rendon has battled injuries since his time in college. Recently promoted to AA, Rendon appears to be the last piece of the puzzle in Washington. While he has exclusively played third base while in the minors (and DH’d, but that doesn’t really count), his defensive home is not assured. Despite Rendon’s defensive acumen, Washington has gold glover Ryan Zimmerman locking down the position for nearly the next decade, so either Rendon will be shifted to first base or second base, or Zimmerman will move over to first base. Either way, Rendon is not long for the minor leagues and figures to hit wherever his defensive home may be (and we all hope second or third, for fantasy purposes).
Project 2015, and beyond – Here is a brief list of players who won’t be up for at least two years, but, if they make the major leagues, figure to make an absolutely huge impact.
Archie Bradley (ARI – RHP) – While Skaggs and Bauer are viewed as more sure things, Bradley has the potential of being a true ace, the perpetual top of the rotation starter that opening day for a decade and, if everything goes right, starts Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, Bradley’s potential is shown as he is second in strikeouts (the leader is 23, Bradley is 19) and his problems are shown as he leads the league in walks with 72, at 5/7 per nine innings. But Bradley turned 20 just last week, underscoring how much time has to work on his command and unleash his fastball/curveball combination on major league hitters.
Gary Sanchez (NYY – C) – Gary Sanchez is probably the heir to the Jesus Montero crown in more ways than one – questions about his defensive future behind the plate, but a great hitting catcher whose bat will play at any position. Of course, playing for the Yankees only serves to increase the comparisons, but Sanchez is his own player. After being suspended by the Yankees in 2011 for poor attitude, he came back with a vengeance in 2012, hitting 297/353/517 in full season A, followed by 288/354/441 after his promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Sanchez’s ultimate value is related to his ability to stay behind the plate (at least enough to qualify as a catcher), but his bat should play even if he ends up as a first baseman.
Aaron Sanchez (TOR – RHP) – Part of the vaunted “Lansing Three” with Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, Sanchez has a great fastball to go with his developing curveball and changeup. After somewhat struggling in 2011 (5.31 combined ERA in rookie and Low A ball), Sanchez has broken out in 2012, putting up a 2.36 ERA with 84 strikeouts across 76.1 innings. While his command still needs work (5.2 walks per nine), he could be the next ace to ply his trade on the other side of the border.
Luis Heredia (PIT – RHP) – Signed out of Mexico has a 15 year old; Heredia has dominated the college-heavy New York-Penn League despite not turning 18 until August 10. Despite not striking out that many batters (only 27 in 48.1 innings), Heredia has shown great command (2.6 walks per nine) while pitching with limited innings. Next season should be Heredia’s first season in full-season ball, and in a season with #1 Gerrit Cole and #2 Jameson Taillon, Heredia may have the highest ceiling of them all.
Tyler Austin (NYY – OF) – in 2011, Austin began putting it together, hitting 390/438/622 in 20 games for the GCL Yankees then 323/402/542 for the Staten Island Yankees. In 2012, Austin took the next step, hitting 320/405/598 in 70 games in full season A before being promoted to High A, where he has continued to hit, despite the pitching-friendly environment, putting up a 299/372/429 line while primarily playing right field. Austin may become the next great slugging outfielder for the Yankees, though comparing anyone to Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle, or Jackson is cruel, at best. How good could Austin be? The sky is the limit.
Francisco Lindor (CLE – SS) – Like Profar? Then you should like Lindor too. A switch hitter with great bat speed who is as close to a lock to stay as a shortstop as anyone else, Lindor projects to hit for a good average while hitting 15 home runs per season. He lacks Profar’s MVP-level upside, but a shortstop who goes to the All-Star game every season is pretty valuable.
Adonys Cardona (TOR – RHP) – While his numbers have underwhelmed (4.55 ERA in 2011 and 6.32 ERA in 2012), the 6’1″ 170 pounder has the upside of a future ace and the pedigree associated with the player who received the largest bonus out of any prospects ever signed out of Venezuela, a list that includes Felix Hernandez, Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jesus Montero.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
P.S. Sorry about the complete lack of posts lately, work has been incredibly busy, but I should be able to return to my normal 1-2 per week schedule for the rest of the season!
When the Astros drafted Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa first overall, they picked the player with the most potential for impact – and most potential to become a complete bust – in the draft. A tremendous athlete, Correa has been lauded for his quick hands and potential at the plate, his grace and strong arm in the field, and his speed, Correa is a 6’3” shortstop approaching 200 pounds at age 17. Much of the commentary has focused on Correa’s potential and his age – Correa won’t turn 18 until September 22 (the same day as Tommy Lasorda will turn 85), which further underscores his potential for improvement, especially given the results of a groundbreaking study published by Rany Jazayerli at Baseball Prospectus.
After Correa signed quickly – and for under slot - there was a lot of buzz around whether the Astros picked the best available player, a player who would sign quickly for less than the maximum, or had hastily gone Matt Bush on the organization. Personally, I think it’s a great move. The Astros got a top flight talent at a premium position and saved some money to spread to other picks.
But I began to wonder out of the shortstops drafted out of high school in the first round of the major league draft:
- How many made it to the major leagues;
- Were successful major leaguers; and
- How many remained shortstops?
In order to answer these questions, I used MLB draft data from Baseball-Reference.com to pull all of the draft picks from 1990-2007 for the first two rounds. Here is the full data set via Google Docs (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjuFn-ctXd3VdF9jQkVtMC03dE9TeENMYVg2SHZJOFE).
I filtered for:
- Listed position when being drafted, assuming the likelihood of a player moving TO shortstop was exceedingly low;
- Filtered for shortstop (as opposed to college players);
- Filtered for players drafted out of short stop; and
- Looked into only the first round (as second round picks would rarely be a prospect of the level of Correa).
Here’s what I found:
38 players fit the requirements, including:
- Successful picks (WAR over 15): Chipper Jones (1/1 Braves, 1990), Derek Jeter (1/6 Yankees, 1992), and Alex Rodriguez (1/1 Mariners, 1993);
- Good picks (WAR over 5): Pokey Reese (1/20 Reds, 1991), Michael Cuddyer (1/9 Twins, 1997), and Felipe Lopez (1/8, Blue Jays 1998);
- Interesting picks (for various reasons): Josh Booty (1/5 Marlins 1994) and Sergio Santos (1/27 Diamondbacks, 2002);
- Colossal flops: Brandon Wood (1/23 Angels, 2003) and Matt Bush (1/1 Padres, 2004); and
- Players whose places have yet to be determined: BJ Upton (1/2 Rays, 2002), Justin Upton (1/1 Diamondbacks, 2005), and Mike Moustakas (1/2 Royals, 2007) – though both Upton Brothers are already successful with WAR over 11.
As you may notice, the success rate is exceedingly low, with only a few players who are even potential hall of famers and almost as many players are colossal flops as good players. A total of 13 never made it to the major leagues in any capacity and five appearing in under 100 games.
- Chipper Jones: Basically a third baseman from the start of his major league, though he played a little time in left field and even less at short stop. What’s most amazing is was not even supposed to be the #1 pick – more on that here.
- Derek Jeter: A short stop from day one and has not played another defensive position in the major leagues (unless you count his games at DH). Not the greatest range but sure hands and makes it look good.
- Alex Rodriguez: Historic talent and historic centaur.
- Pokey Reese: Basically a defense-only player but, wow, could he pick it.
- Michael Cuddyer: According to Baseball-Reference.com, he has never played short stop in the major leagues, primarily a right fielder (731 games), first baseman (214 games), and a third baseman (214 games). Stopped playing shortstop after making 61(!) errors while playing for the Fort Wayne Wizards of the Midwest League at the age of 19.
- Felipe Lopez: One good offensive year (291/352/486 in 2005), but appeared in 1185 games across 11 major league seasons. He was a better hitter – and a worse fielder – than I realized.
- Josh Booty: After signing a contract reported to be worth $1.2 million, Booty struck out a lot and hit for some power. Gave up baseball after 1998 and went to LSU to be their starting quarterback before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 6th round… and never appear in the NFL.
- Sergio Santos: Santos was a good prospect who never hit enough and made a lot of errors; then he became a relief pitcher and is laughing at all of us.
Players Whose Places Have Yet to be Determined:
- BJ Upton: Doesn’t walk, power is streaky, good center fielder. Looks like he will stall out in the “Good Pick” category.
- Justin Upton: The better of the Upton brothers (so far), could be a perennial MVP candidate and on pace to join the “Successful Pick” category.
- Mike Moustakas: Too little time to judge, but hitting 278/346/480 is a very good start.
So what does this mean?
Out of the 38, 13 (34%) never made it to the major leagues, 17 made it and had WAR below 5 (45%), for a total of 30/38 (79%). Of the successful ones, only Derek Jeter (98.6%), Felipe Lopez (53.5%), and Alex Rodriguez (51.5%) have primarily been shortstops. Pokey Reese primarily played second base with a fair amount of time at shortstop, Chipper Jones only appeared at shortstop more than six times once (38 in 1996), and Michael Cuddyer is the definition of a defensive tweener.
In short (pun intended), Carlos Correa is probably not going to reach his potential, but then again, neither are the rest of the first round picks, so the Astros made a great pick by grabbing for the stars because, frankly, you seem to have about as good of a chance of drafting Matt Bush with the #1 overall pick as picking Alex Rodriguez.
Also, because someone actually asked, here’s WAR for #1 overall picks that were drafted out of High School:
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Last week I wrote about a number of big prospects who struggled early in their careers but went on to be successful, from Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to Matt Wieters. But a prospect struggling might be a cause for alarm, as history is also littered with top prospects that got to the major leagues and failed miserably.
1. Brandon Wood. It seems that Brandon Wood fooled everyone. A top pick when drafted (#23) by the Angels, Wood impressed from the beginning, hitting 278/348/475 for the Provo Angels and 308/349/462 for the AZL Angels, both part of different Rookie Leagues. The following season, Wood hit 251/322/404 for the Angels’ A-level affiliate in Cedar Rapids, garnering Baseball America’s #83 prospect ranking. The following season, Wood absolutely destroyed the ball in High A Rancho Cucamonga, putting up a 321/383/672 line with 43 home runs and 51 doubles. Wood’s stock skyrocketed, especially after his (Warning: SSS) 19 plate appearance trial in AAA, putting up a 316/316/526 line. Wood was ranked #3 by Baseball America. After a 276/355/552 line in AA Arkansas in 2006, Wood was ranked the #8 prospect by Baseball America; then #16 after a 272/338/497 line in AAA. Wood’s struggles in the major leagues have been well documented. After hitting 200/224/327 with 43 strikeouts in 157 PA while playing both shortstop and third base in 2008, Wood was sent back down to AAA. Wood’s trials in the major leagues never seemed to get any better, including an amazingly bad 146/174/208 line in 2010 in 226 plate appearances that included 71 strikeouts with just six walks. Wood fooled everyone, including Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
Me on Brandon Wood in 2005: “He’s still going to get better,” San Jose manager Lenn Sakata said. “He looks like the next Cal Ripken to me.”—
Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) March 12, 2012
2. Paul Wilson. Wilson had it all: A dominating career at Florida State, a lightning fastball, a dominating slider, and a 6’5″ 235 lb frame. Wilson was the #1 pick in the 1994 Rule IV draft and was immediately ranked the #16 prospect in baseball by Baseball America. After struggling in his brief audition in 1994, Wilson dominated in his first full season of professional ball, putting up a 2.17 ERA for AA Binghamton in 120.1 innings followed by a 2.85 ERA for AAA Norfolk over 66.1 innings. After the season, Wilson was ranked the #2 prospect in by Baseball America (behind Andruw Jones). Wilson spent most of 1996 with the Mets, putting up a 5.38 ERA (75 ERA+) across 149 innings. Wilson missed time while being on the DL with “tendinitis” in his shoulder, then came back to pitch the rest of the season before being diagnosed with a torn labrum and needing shoulder surgery. Wilson made a few appearances at the end of 1997 in the low levels of the minor leagues before struggling in 1998 in the upper levels. In the spring of 1999, Wilson had his elbow rebuilt and looked pretty good for the Mets’ AAA affiliate in 2000 before being dealt with Jason Tyner to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bubba Trammell and Rick White. Wilson looked great as the swingman for the Devil Rays, putting up a 3.35 ERA (148 ERA+) for the Rays. Over the next four seasons, Wilson put up a combined 4.67 ERA (92 ERA+) across 124 games (111 starts) for the Devil Rays and the Cincinnati Reds before struggling further in 2005 (7.77 ERA in 9 starts) and having surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff. Wilson retired early in 2006 after struggling in the minor leagues.
3. Joel Guzman. Joel Guzman serves as the ultimate cautionary tale whenever any team drafts or signs a big shortstop. For every Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, and Alfonso Soriano (laugh all you want, he was really good from 2002-2008), there are another 50 Joel Guzmans. Signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2001 for a then-record $2.25 million, Guzman played rookie ball at age 17 (hitting 245/329/370) and in A and High A at age 18 (hitting 241/271/387). Guzman’s breakout came in 2004, when he hit 307/349/550 for the High A Vero Beach Dodgers in 357 plate appearances, before putting up a 280/325/522 line for the Jacksonville Suns of the AA Southern League. Guzman’s prospect status jumped after 2004, Guzman’s age-19 season, being ranked #5 by Baseball America. In 2005, Guzman (then 20) put up a solid 287/351/475 line, again in AA. In 2005 Guzman, never a particularly good defensive player, made 25 errors in 99 games at shortstop and another four in 21 games at second base. Guzman was also getting absolutely huge, growing to 6’7″ and being (kindly) listed at 225 lbs, with his reported weight much higher. Despite his size, Guzman was still ranked the #26 prospect by Baseball America, which clearly still believed strongly in his bat. In 2006, Guzman was hitting 297/353/464 for the AA Las Vegas 51s before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with Sergio Pedroza for Julio Lugo. Guzman was assigned to AAA Durham, where he struggled, hitting 193/228/386. After that, Guzman never really put it all together, appearing in 24 games in the major leagues and putting up a 232/306/321 line while primarily playing third base. Guzman, plying in AA for the Baltimore Orioles, hit 279/344/519 in his age 25 season, but he will never amount to more than a very large cautionary tale, as is discussed in this article on TrueBlueLA.
4. Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens. Meulens had it all: size (6’4″, 200 lbs), power, and a truly amazing nickname. Unfortunately he also swung at everything and often missed, which, coupled with a complete inability to consistently field a baseball, doomed him. Muelens burst onto the prospect scene by hitting 285/376/510 at AAA Columbus, then being ranked the #30 prospect by Baseball America. Muelens got a long look at the major league level in 1991, putting up a 222/276/319 line with 97 strikeouts in plate appearances, primarily playing left field. For his major league career, Muelens hit 220/288/353 with 165 strikeouts in 549 plate appearances. Of course, Muelens is now the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, which may explain why the Giants are, as a team, hitting 260/320/380 as a team, good for the 12th highest OPS in the NL.
5. Dallas McPherson. Drafted in the second round out of the Citadel in 2001, McPherson was supposed to be a slugging third baseman, and exploded onto the scene in his second full season with a 308/404/606 line with 18 home runs in 77 games for Ranch Cucamonga and a 314/426/569 line with 5 home runs in 28 games for AA Arkansas in 2003. After the season Baseball America ranked McPherson the #33 prospect in baseball. McPherson began the season back in AA Arkansas, where he hit 321/404/660 in 68 games before being moved up to AA Salt lake, where he put up a 313/370/680 line in 67 games. Brought up for a cup of tea in September, McPherson hit 225/279/475. After the season, McPherson was rated the #12 prospect by Baseball America. In 2005, McPherson opened the season as the Angels’ starting 3B, putting up a weak 244/295/449 line (OPS+ of 96) and has bounced between the minor leagues and the major league ever since. A typical AAAA slugger, McPherson hit 42 home runs for AAA Albuquerque in 2008, but has only appeared in 62 games in the major leagues since the end of 2005.
6. Todd Van Poppel. Todd Van Poppel was the best prospect in the 1990 draft; Chipper Jones was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft (and the player in the 1990 draft who had the best career). With a fluid motion, a dynamite fastball, and an ideal 6’5″, 210 lb frame, Van Poppel widely viewed as the best pitching prospect in nearly a decade. Van Poppel dropped as far as he did in the draft because he committed to the University of Texas and used it as leverage to scare other teams off with record-setting bonus demands. After telling the Atlanta Braves not to draft him (they took Jones), the Oakland A’s drafted him and gave him a then-record $1.2 million major league contract. After being assigned to low A Southern Oregon, Van Poppel looked the part of the future ace, putting up a 1.12 ERA in five starts across 24 innings, striking out 32. Upon his promotion to full season A for three more starts, Van Poppel put up a 3.95 ERA across 13.2 innings while striking out 17. Van Poppel also walked ten batters, a fact that was largely ignored due to his strikeout numbers and projections. After being named the #1 prospect by Baseball America, Van Poppel was assigned to AA Huntsville, where he pitched generally well, putting up a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts across 132.1 innings while striking out 115 and walking 90. Van Poppel made one start for the A’s, pitching 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits, walking two, and striking out six, while allowing five runs. After the season, Van Poppel was ranked the #2 prospect in baseball (behind 1991 #1 pick, Brien Taylor). Sent to AAA for 1992, Van Poppel put up a 3.97 ERA in nine starts across 45.1 innings while striking out 29 and walking 35 for AAA Tacoma. 1992 was a lost year for Van Poppel, as he spent the bulk of the year on the DL. Despite the plunging strikeout to walk ratio, Baseball America ranked Van Poppel the #7 prospect in baseball, behind Chipper Jones, Taylor, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Delgado (then a catcher), Tim Salmon, and Wil Cordero. Splitting time in 1993 between AAA Tacoma and Oakland, Van Poppel put up a 5.83 ERA in AAA and a 5.04 ERA in the major leagues. From that point on, Van Popple struggled, putting up a career 5.58 ERA in the major leagues across 359 games with only 98 starts.
So, in short, your top prospect may never ever become what you had hoped so you should trade him for Adam Dunn. Right now.
Until next time, @HypeProspect.
One of the most frustrating things is when a top prospect comes up and does not just fail, but falls flat on his face. One of the most recent, and frustrating, examples is San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. After being drafted in the fifth round in the 2009 draft out of the University of Texas at Austin, Belt was assigned to High A and absolutely destroyed the ball, putting up a 383/492/628 line in 333 plate appearances before being promoted to AA, where Belt kept on hitting to the tune of a 337/413/623 line across 201 plate appearances. Belt was promoted to AAA for a brief 61 plate appearances, putting up a respectable 229/393/563 line to end the season. In 2011, Belt spent time in the major leagues, being played inconsistently by Manager Bruce Bochy while failing to produce with a 225/306/412 line and destroying AAA pitching to the tune of a 309/448/527 line. In 2012, Belt has had similar issues in the major league, putting up a much-improved 230/347/340 line while making an adjustment to stand more upright during his at bats.
But take heart Giants fans (or Royals fans for Eric Hosmer, or Rays fans for Matt Moore), there is a long, long list of great baseball players who were top prospects and struggled early on, eventually becoming great baseball players.
1. Michael Jack Schmidt. Chances are if you know more than three males born from 1975 through 1985, one of them will be named Michael or Jack (or Michael Jack) and there is a really good reason for this: Mike Schmidt was an amazing baseball player. Before he began putting up Hall of Fame numbers, Schmidt put up a putrid 196/324/373 line in 1973. Schmidt’s learning curve was steep, as he put up a 282/395/546 line, leading the National League with 36 home runs, 138 strikeouts (the following year he would strike out 180 times), and a .546 slugging percentage.
2. Matt Wieters. Matt Wieters was supposed to be the next big thing after he was drafted #5 overall by the Baltimore Orioles out of Georgia Tech in 2007. After being ranked the #12 prospect by Baseball America before playing a single professional game and #1 after putting up a 345/448/576 line in High A and a 365/460/625 line in AA in 2008. In 2009, Wieters put up a 305/387/504 line in AAA before being promoted to the major leagues. Wieters struggled his first few seasons in the major leagues, but has since turned into a consistent All-Star and Gold Glove winner who is consistently in the discussion for the best catcher in the league.
3. Edgardo Alfonzo. Before becoming one of the best second baseman in the league from 1999-2002, Alfonzo was a top prospect in the Mets organization, being ranked as the #74 prospect by Baseball America after the 1992 season and #31 prospect by Baseball America after the 1993 season. Alfonzo put up a 278/301/382 line in 1995 and a 261/304/345 line in 1996 before figuring it out in 1997 to the tune of a 315/391/432 line. Alfonzo’s peak was short due to back problems, but he was one of the most underrated baseball players, and a key cog for the Mets, in the late 90s and early 2000s.
4. Adrian Beltre. Beltre is one of the more fascinating career paths, from a top prospect (Baseball America ranked him the #30 prospect after a 1996 season where he hit a combined 284/366/519 at full season A and High A age 17 and then the #3 prospect after he hit 317/407/561 in High A in 1997). After putting up a 321/411/581 line in 64 games in AA as a 19 year old in 1998, Beltre hit 215/278/369 in 77 games for the Dodgers. Beltre played with varying levels of success for the next five years, putting up a combined 265/323/432 line before breaking out with an amazing 334/388/629 line in 2004, his contract year. After signing a five-year, $63 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, Beltre seemingly returned to his previous level, putting up a combined 266/317/442 line over five years. In 2010, Beltre finally put it all together for the Boston Red Sox, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense while putting up a 321/365/553 line, a level he has generally maintained during his season and two months with the Texas Rangers.
5. Jayson Werth. After being the #22 pick of the 1997 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Werth hit in every stop in the minor leagues and was consistently a highly-regarded prospect. Baseball America ranked him #52 after 1998 and #48 after 1999. After an off season in 2000, Werth bounced back after being dealt to the Blue Jays for Jason Bale and Baseball America ranked him #70 and then #94 after 2002. Werth then spent the next few years raking in the minors and struggling in the majors (albeit often with injuries), including being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jason Frasor. After having the Dodgers not offer him a contract, Werth signed with the Phillies as a free agent and finally broke out.
6. Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg was a 20th round pick by the Phillies in 1978, so he was not exactly the most highly regarded prospect until he hit 310/403/469 as a 20-year old in AA and 293/352/397 as a 21 year old in AAA, while stealing 32 bases both years, primarily as a shortstop. After being traded by the Phillies with Larry Bowa for Ivan de Jesus, Sandberg won the National League Rookie of the Year with a 271/312/372 line followed by a 261/316/351 line in his second year. Sandberg broke out in 1984, winning the MVP with a 314/367/520 line, cementing himself as the Cubs second baseman of the future.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Belt, Hosmer, and Moore will all bounce back and become great players (or even good ones, history is littered with top prospects who never panned out), but it should be noted that prospects often struggle early on and have very productive careers – not everyone can start a career like Ralph Kiner.
Of course, Giants fans can just keep checking for Brandon Belt trade rumors at MLBTradeRumors.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
The fastest player in the California League, if not all of professional baseball, is Cincinnati Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton’s speed has long been viewed as both his calling card and his biggest assets. While attending Taylorsville High School in Taylorsville, Mississippi (also the hometown of Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jason Campbell), Hamilton signed a letter of intent to play baseball and football (as a wide receiver) at Mississippi State University Bulldogs. While at Taylorsville High School, Hamilton also starred on the basketball team, averaging 35 points per game. While his hitting approach was considered raw, Hamilton’s elite speed, bat speed, and athleticism earned considerable praise. Watch Hamilton hit and throw here:
After taking Arizona State right-handed pitcher Mike Leake with their first round pick (#8), the Reds took Southern California right-hander Brad Boxberger in the supplemental first round (#43), the Reds took Hamilton with the 57th overall pick. Shortly after the draft, Hamilton was asked if he was planning to attend MSU or sign with the Reds, and he replied: “I think I’m going [with] baseball. I really don’t know yet, but I’m pretty sure I am, though. I’d rather start my whole career off now rather than later.” Hamilton continued, saying that baseball was his first love and he was anxious to grab hold of the opportunity to play professional baseball.
Hamilton signed and was assigned to the Rookie Level GCL Reds of the Gulf Coast League and immediately struggled in his first experience in professional baseball, hitting a putrid 205/235/277, striking out 47 times in 43 games. One area where Hamilton had success was in stealing 14 bases despite only getting on base 45 times, showcasing his world-class speed. After the season, Hamilton was viewed as little more than a speedster with impressible tools and tremendous upside who was far from actualization. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #10 prospect in the Reds’ system, commenting that Hamilton is “far more of an athlete than a baseball player at this point” and Hamilton had “little feel for the strike zone,” as was evidenced by his high strike out total. Baseball America ranked Hamilton the #11 prospect, echoing many similar comments to Goldstein’s.
In 2010, Hamilton was held back in extended spring training for extra instruction before being assigned to the Rookie Level Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League, where the improvement was stark. In 69 games, Hamilton put up a 318/383/456 line with 13 doubles, 10 triples, and two home runs. More amazingly, Hamilton stole 48 bases in 57 attempts and struck out 56 times, or approximately three every five games. While in Billings, Hamilton played 13 games at shortstop and 55 games at second base, fueling speculation that the Reds did not view Hamilton as a shortstop in the long-term. After the season, the accolades began rolling in. Baseball America ranked Hamilton the #2 prospect in the Reds’ system, behind only Cuban fireballer Aroldis Champman, along with naming Hamilton the “Fastest Baserunner” and “Best Athlete,” and projecting him as the starting second baseman for the 2014 Reds. BP’s Kevin Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #3 prospect in the Reds’ system, behind Chapman and Devin Mesoraco, stating that “[i]f one could give a grade higher than 80 for speed, Hamilton would certainly earn it. He is arguably the fastest prospect in the game, with the kind of blinding speed that turns any ground ball to the left side into an adventure. He’s already a potent basestealer who swiped 48 bags in just 69 games and was safe on 29 of his last 30 attempts.” Goldstein questioned Hamilton’s ability to stay at shortstop, but commented that his value as a second baseman who bats leadoff was incredible. Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #46 prospect in all of baseball, comparable to Baseball America, who ranked Hamilton #50.
Around now is when I became aware of Billy Hamilton, from episode 19 of Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast, where Goldstein and Jason Parks each picked three prospects that they felt would have breakout seasons in 2011. While there were other players picked that were more universally renowned (Goldstein would later pick Bryce Harper) and Parks joked (maybe not as much of a joke) that he “wanted to pick all Royals.” After Parks picked Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez, Goldstein picked Hamilton as his “speed guy,” though Parks did not select that way. Goldstein stated that the issues with Hamilton were that he was from a small town in Mississippi and was very thin and not a classic athletic frame. Calling Hamilton “raw like sushi,” Goldstein discussed Hamilton’s issues in his first season in professional baseball and the work done by the Reds to make Hamilton into a better player, specifically pitch recognition, making contact, and using his speed to get on base. Projecting Hamilton as the type of guy who would hit .300, draw some walks, hit tons of triples, and steal 60 bases, Goldstein extolled his virtues while cautioning that Hamilton may never develop enough strength to become a good enough hitter to use his speed.
Assigned to the Full Season A Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League for 2011, Hamilton caused a buzz, hitting 278/340/360 with a mind-boggling 103 steals in 123 attempts. Hamilton’s season is more amazing when broken down by month or by half.
By Half (approximate – April through June and July through September):
The differences are stark: Hamilton hit 228/284/315 in the first half and 333/396/410 in the second half. While his isolated power was never impressive (and many of his doubles and triples were a direct product of his crazy speed), Hamilton’s batting average spiked in the second half as he showed improved plate discipline and improved contact rates. This can be shown by his improvement in SO/PA rate by month and half:
Hamilton’s strike out rate was higher for the first three months of the season than for any of the final three months, which coincided with his increased batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and nearly any other simple metric used to measure performance. Amazingly, Hamilton’s rates in July and September were lower than his overall rate, and his August rate was only slightly above his season average, truly splitting Hamilton’s seasons into two separate halves.
Unlike many young players appearing in their first grueling full season of professional baseball, Hamilton did not decrease his stolen base rate (0.75 SB/game in the first half and 0.77 SB/game in the second half) as the season wore on, even spiking in rate in September as he went all out in an attempt to steal 100 bases, stealing eight in his final four games.
After the season, the prospect prognosticators took note, as Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus ranked Hamilton the #22 prospect in baseball and the #1 prospect in the Reds organization, saying that Hamilton “has been known to go from first to third on singles to left field, has scored from second on sacrifice flies, and is a threat to steal both second and third whenever he reaches base.” Baseball America agreed, ranking Hamilton the #48 prospect in baseball and #2 prospect in the Reds organization (behind Devin Mesoraco). Baseball America further named Hamilton the “Fastest Baserunner” in the Cincinnati Reds’ system and the Midwest League, along with the “Best Athlete” in the Reds’ system, and the “Best Baserunner” in the Midwest League, all in 2011.
Entering 2012, there was a lot of focus as to how well Hamilton would be in the High A California League. While the California League is one of the most hitter-friendly leagues, if not the most hitter-friendly league, many hitters often abandon their approach in search of the long ball, causing many hitters to increase power numbers while increasing strikeout totals. Hamilton started the year by blasting a home run in his second plate appearance for the Bakersfield Blaze in the season opener. Through his first two months of the season, Hamilton put up a robust 319/395/448 line with an astonishing 57 stolen bases in 69 attempts. Despite only the single home run hit in the first game, Hamilton’s slugging percentage has been fueled by ten doubles and seven triples. Flying around the bases, Hamilton has been lighting up the California League while decreasing his strikeout rate (.8 per game for the season, down from 1 per game in 2011) while increasing his walk rate (.5 per game, up from .39 per game).
In responding to a question about Hamilton turning into Joey Gathright (basically an athlete with great speed who never put it all together despite being able to jump over a car), Goldstein responded, “He’s way better than Gathright, and faster. Almost zero chance to stay at SS, and I think they should move him to CF today.” Moving Hamilton to centerfield has been a common refrain, with Ben Badler of Baseball America stating “I think the Reds will try to keep him [at shortstop], but when you have the fastest player in all of baseball, I’d just put him in center field and let his speed take over.” Matthew Eddy of Baseball America echoed similar sentiments but for a slightly different reason, stating that Hamilton is “facing a likely shift to center field if he plays his way off shortstop.”
But how fast is Billy Hamilton?
From Baseball America’s Jim Callis:
From the ever-entertaining duo at Productive Outs:
From Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
Of course, if you don’t believe them, check out a few amazing facts unearthed by Baseball Prospectus’ Sam Miller:
- Pitchers have committed three balks while Billy Hamilton was on base.
- Billy Hamilton has scored from third when the catcher threw to first to complete another batter’s strikeout.
- And Billy Hamilton scored the walk-off run on April 20 on a sacrifice fly. To the second baseman.
Of course, what’s most amazing is that it appears that Billy Hamilton has no nickname. I have seen a few referring to him as “Sliding Billy” in reference to Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton, but he played more than 100 years ago (though he was also a great base stealer – stealing 100 four times and 914, good for third all time, for his career) in an entirely different era. Hamilton needs his own nickname and I think this is as good as a situation as any to come up with one.
I’m going to propose a few, please feel free to vote for one or tweet at me and I will add your suggestion to the list.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.