Results tagged ‘ PostHypeProspect ’

Non-Hype Prospect – Ben Zobrist @thezobrists

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.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Zobrist’s Positions: Ben Zobrist defensive positions (Source: http://www.baseball-reference.com)

References:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/z/zobribe01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=zobris001ben

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=Ben-Zobrist

http://www.northwoodsleague.com

http://www.northwoodsleague.com/Alumni-in-Majors.aspx

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/28544

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2517046

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/seasons/review.asp?Y=2006&L=Tex

Post Hype Prospect – @Rangers Adrian Beltre

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.

References:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltrad01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=beltre001adr

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/leader.cgi?type=bat&id=15fa0db1

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/leader.cgi?type=pitch&id=15fa0db1

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/12719

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_2004.shtml#NLmvp

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_2010.shtml#ALmvp

Post Hype Prospect – @RedSox Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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.

References:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/saltaja01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=2003&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/75096

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Former Top Prospect – Chipper Jones – @realCJ10 @braves

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.

Reference:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jonesch06.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=jones-005lar

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=1990&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1136801/index.htm

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?page=quotes/090604

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_1995.shtml#NLroy

Prospect Hype – Tyler Skaggs – @TylerSkaggs23 @Dbacks

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 GordonGoldstein 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:

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.

References:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=skaggs001tyl

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/skaggty01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?team_ID=ANA&year_ID=2009&draft_type=junreg&query_type=franch_year

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9820

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/39187

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12441

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13078

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12441

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/chat/2012/2613947.html

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16090

Trading Deadline Trades: Good Deals or Buyer Beware

As the second half of the season begins, teams begin assessing their 2012 seasons with an eye on the future.  Some teams go all in, picking up top players by dealing top prospects, some teams add bit parts to supplement their rosters, some teams stand pat, and other teams become sellers, giving up on their present for a shot at the future.

Some of these trades work immediately (such as the Cardinals/Blue Jays Colby Rasmus trade last year), while others backfire immensely (such as the Red Sox’s acquisition of Larry Andersen at the expense of Jeff Bagwell), and others seem to have no appreciable benefit (such as the Diamondbacks’ trade for Adam Dunn).  Additionally, not all of these happen at the end of July, big trades often happen any time from May through August.  Below is a selection of players involved in at least two mid-season trades – some as prospects, some as high-priced veterans, and some as both – that help underscore the possibilities and the risks involved.

Traded Player 1:  David Cone
Trade 1
Backdrop: The 1992 Mets were the worst team money could buy (or so we’re told by Bob Klapisch), the 1992 Blue Jays were looking for another top of the rotation pitcher, and David Cone was about to become a free agent for the first time.
Trade: Mets traded David Cone for a PTBNL (Ryan Thompson) and Jeff Kent (more on him later).
Result: Blue Jays rode Cone’s 2.55 ERA across 53 innings, followed by four decent starts in the playoffs to their first World Series win.
Aftermath: Mets had Kent as their 2B (sometimes 3B) of the future, Ryan Thompson played baseball professionally (that’s all I’m giving him because I remember wondering why the Mets didn’t have anyone better), and Cone signed with the big money Royals in the off-season.  With the picks, the Blue Jays drafted Matt Farner (never made it past A ball) and Tony Medrano (1,449 games in the minors but never made the majors).
Winner: Blue Jays because flags fly forever.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The 1995 Blue Jays acquired Cone from the Royals in April for David Sinnes, Chris Stynes, and Tony Medrano (a player the Blue Jays drafted with a pick they received when the Royals signed Cone).  The Blue Jays were struggling and the Yankees’ renewal was in full swing, needing one more, preferably veteran, pitcher to take the reins.
Trade: Blue Jays traded Cone for Jason Jarvis (never made it out of AA), Mike Gordon (never made it out of AA), and Marty Janzen (27 career games in the majors).
Result: Yankees lost in five games to a Mariners team led by Randy Johnson (more on him later) and Ken Griffey, Jr.  The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993.
Aftermath: Cone stuck around in the Bronx, pitching there through 2000, picking up four World Series Rings and throwing a perfect game in 1999.
Winner: The Yankees, as the players they gave up did not amount to anything and Cone was very productive in his time there.

Moral of the story: Acquire David Cone.

Traded Player 2: Jeff Kent
Trade 1
Backdrop: The 1992 Mets were looking to pick up some young talent and the Blue Jays wanted another top of the rotation starter.
Trade: Blue Jays traded Kent and a PTBNL (Ryan Thompson) for David Cone.
Result: The Blue Jays won the World Series.  Kent hit 239/289/407 (“good” for a 97 OPS+) and Ryan Thompson hit roughly as well.
Aftermath: Kent hit 21 home runs in 1993, 14 in 1993, and 20 in 1995, but never really put it all together.  After turning a corner in 1996 (hitting 290/331/436 in 89 games), Kent was dealt to the Indians (more on that later).  Thompson was never much more than a 4th outfielder with some power, as he struck out a lot (347 in 1385 career PA).
Winner: the Blue Jays, especially because of what the Mets did next.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The 1996 Mets had Edgardo Alfonzo coming up to play third base and wanted to get an upgrade from Jose Vizcaino at second base (but apparently had no issue with Butch Huskey playing first base…), while the Indians viewed Vizcaino as a serviceable second baseman.
Trade: Kent was dealt by the Mets to the Indians with Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.
Result: The Indians remained very good for the next few years while the Mets were killed by Baerga’s lack of production.  Vizcaino and Espinoza were minor parts to the deal.
Aftermath:  Baerga never hit and Kent was traded after the season to the Giants for Matt Williams.
Winner:  The Mets lost but the Indians did not really win.  Perhaps if the Indians won a World Series and either Vizcaino or Kent were a part of it…

Moral of the story: Don’t acquire Jeff Kent (well, yet).

Traded Player 3: Carlos Beltran
Trade 1
Backdrop: In 2004, the Royals were on their way to another 100-loss season, the Astros were a CF away from being a truly elite team, and Carlos Beltran was months away from attaining free agent riches.
Trade: In a three-team trade, the Royals sent Beltran to the Astros, the A’s sent Mark Teahen and Mike Wood to the Royals, the Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the A’s, and the Astros sent John Buck to the Royals.  In short, the Royals traded Beltran and got back Mark Teahen, Mike Wood, and John Buck.
Result: The Astros were 38-34 prior to the trade and 52-36 after, falling to the Cardinals in a tight seven game series.  Beltran hit 258/368/559 in the regular season, 455/500/1.091 in the NLDS, and 417/563/958 in the NLCS, mashing eight home runs.
Aftermath: Beltran went on to free agent riches in Queens, Dotel got hurt the following season, Teahen had a nice 2006 but never really never figured it out, Mike Wood peaked as a swingman, and John Buck has turned into a low-average/high-power catcher for the Marlins.  The Astros drafted Eli Iorg and Tommy Manzella with the picks they received as compensation for Beltran.
Winner: The Astros, who used Beltran for his peak value: a hired gun.

Trade 2
Backdrop: In 2011, the Mets were a team beginning a rebuilding process and the Giants were looking to make a late charge by acquiring a slugging outfielder in an attempt to win the World Series for a second consecutive year.
Trade: The Mets sent Beltran to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.
Result: The Giants missed the playoffs, though Beltran put up a robust 323/369/551 line in 44 games.
Aftermath: Wheeler’s stock has spiked, with Baseball America naming him the #10 overall and #6 pitching prospect in baseball.  The Giants were not able to offer Beltran arbitration due to a contractual stipulation (the curse of Minaya), so were unable to offset his loss with draft picks.
Winner: So far, the Mets.  However, if Wheeler gets hurt, the Giants may be the winner due to extra ticket sales caused by the acquisition.

Moral of the story: Beltran can hit, but cannot carry an offense.  Trade for him but only if you don’t expect him to carry your team.

Traded Player 4: Cliff Lee

Trade 1
Backdrop: In 2002, the Expos were owned by Major League Baseball and thought they were in the hunt for a playoff spot.  The Indians were having a bad year and looking to jettison some veterans in order to get some additional young talent.
Trade:  Expos dealt Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (brother of Stephen and JD) for Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens.
Result: The Expos missed the playoffs and began a slow slide into mediocrity that they have only recently been able to reverse.
Aftermath: The Expos dealt Colon to the White Sox in the off-season; the Indians got a lot of value out of Sizemore and Lee, and dealt Phillips to the Reds in 2006 in a pretty terrible trade.
Winner:  The Indians and it’s not even close.  Flags fly forever, but this accelerated the Expos demise.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The Indians were having a bad year and looking to jettison some veterans in order to get some additional young talent (yes, I copied that from the previous trade).  The Phillies were looking to add one more pitcher to get over the top and win a second consecutive World Series.
Trade:  The Indians dealt Lee and Ben Francisco to the Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson.
Result: The Phillies repeated as NL Champions lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
Aftermath: None of the prospects sent to Cleveland have amounted to much and Cliff Lee dominated for the Phillies.  The Phillies dealt Lee to the Mariners in the off-season to the Mariners for J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies – none of which have done much of anything.
Winner: The Phillies because of 2009, but it may have made more sense to keep him for 2010.

Trade 3
Backdrop: The Mariners 2010 season fell apart, with Erik Bedard being injured and their offense being nonexistent.  The Rangers needed another pitcher for the stretch run and wanted a playoff-tested veteran.
Trade: Mariners dealt Mark Lowe (and cash) to the Rangers for Matthew Lawson, Blake Beavan, Justin Smoak, and Josh Lueke, who is a horrible person (see here, here, and here).
Result: The Rangers were AL Champions, but lost to the Giants in the World Series.
Aftermath: The Rangers lost Lee in free agency, while the Mariners turned Leuke into John Jaso.  Justin Smoak, the main prospect acquired, has struggled mightily in the majors after drawing Mark Teixeira (more on him, soon) comparisons.
Winner: The Rangers, as flags, even league championship flags, fly forever.

Moral of the story: Acquire Cliff Lee.

Traded Player 5: Mark Teixeira
Trade 1
Backdrop: The 2007 Rangers were struggling and looking to maximize the value of their best player, Mark Teixeira.  The Braves had just missed the playoffs for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration (1990) and sorely needed an upgrade from Scott Thorman at first base.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Teixeira and lefty-specialist Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on him later), Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison.
Result: The Braves did not really improve much with Teixeira (56-51 before, 28-27 after), as their winning percentage decreased.
Aftermath: The Braves missed the playoffs and Andrus, Feliz, and All-Star Harrison are key parts to the Rangers recent success.
Winner:  The Rangers, not even close.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The Braves, fearing they would lose Teixeira in the off season, wanted to make a deal.  The Angels needed a 1B who could hit, sick of Casey Kotchman’s poor-hitting ways.
Trade:  The Braves dealt Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek.
Result:  The Angels won the AL West, but lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS 3-1.  Casey Kotchman put up a 237/331/316 line in 2008 and a 282/354/409 in 2009 for the Braves before being shipped up to Boston.
Aftermath: The Angels ended up picking Mike Trout and Tyler Skaggs with the picks they received as compensation for Teixeira signing with the Yankees.
Winner:  Neither team won immediately, but it appears the Angels won in the long run as Skaggs was used to acquire Dan Haren and Mike Trout is quite awesome.

Moral of the story:  Mark Teixeira is really good, but not as a hired gun.  Or, perhaps, maybe Mark Teixeira needs to play in one of the five largest markets in the United States.

Traded Player 6: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Trade 1
Backdrop:  The 2007 Rangers were struggling and looking to maximize the value of their best player, Mark Teixeira.  The Braves had just missed the playoffs for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration (1990) and sorely needed an upgrade from Scott Thorman at first base.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Teixeira and lefty-specialist Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on him later), Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison.
Result:  The Braves missed the playoffs and the Rangers went 28-28 for the rest of the season.
Aftermath: To fully understand this trade, you must understand what the Braves dealt.  Prior to 2007, Andrus was the #65 prospect according to Baseball America, but would jump to #19 after 2007, Feliz was unranked, but would be #93 after the season, followed by #10 then #9, Matt Harrison was the #90 prospect, and Saltalamacchia was the #36 after being #18 the season before.
Winner: If the trade was only for Saltalamacchia, the Braves won.  Include anything else and the Rangers smoked them.  This trade may have ended up worse than the Indians/Expos trade involving Cliff Lee.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The 2010 Red Sox needed a replacement for Jason Varitek and were willing to give up a few prospects in exchange.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Saltalamacchia to Boston for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, and a PTBNL (Michael Thomas).
Result:  The Red Sox missed the playoffs, as did the Rangers.
Aftermath:  Salty has turned into one of the top hitting catchers in baseball and none of the prospects are doing much of anything.
Winner:  It appears the Red Sox.

Moral of the story:  Trade for Jarrod Saltalamacchia – it works 60% of the time, every time.

Traded Player 7: Randy Johnson
Trade 1
Backdrop: The 1989 Expos felt they were one pitcher away from making a run (they were only three games back at the time) and thought Johnson would never put it all together.  The Mariners decided to jettison some salary and take a flier on a pitcher with a huge amount of risk and reward.
Trade:  The Mariners dealt Mark Langston to the Expos for Gene Harris, Brian Holman, Randy Johnson, and a PTBNL (Mike Campbell).
Result:  Les Expos finished 81-81, missing the playoffs.  Johnson walked 70 and struck out 104 in 131 innings for the Mariners.
Aftermath:  Randy Johnson was awesome.  Absolutely awesome.  I once saw him go 2/4 with a RBI while striking out 10 over eight innings (though the Mets beat them in the NLDS).  Langston pitched very well for the Expos (2.39 ERA over 24 starts), but went to the Angels in the off season.  The Expos picked Rondell White and Gabe White (no relation, it appears) with compensation picks.
Winner: Rondell White had a nice career, Gabe White was better than I thought, and Langston pitched well, but the Expos dealt an all-time legend for four months of 148 ERA+ and a few picks, and then missed the playoffs.  The Mariners won and it’s not even close.

Trade 2
Backdrop: The 1998 Mariners were not spending money to keep their veterans and were looking to maximize their return in exchange for Johnson, by then one of the top pitchers in the game, with a Cy Young Award (also second place twice and third place once) to go with his no-hitter.  The Astros were in “win now” mode, and needed an ace to anchor their rotation.
Trade: The Mariners dealt Johnson to the Astros for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and a PTBNL (John Halama).
Result: The Astros, led by Johnson’s silly 10-1, 1.28 ERA across 11 starts in which he averaged nearly eight innings per start, went 37-16 for the final two months of the season, taking the NL Central crown before losing to the eventual NL Champion San Diego Padres in four games.  The Mariners finished under .500 for the first time since 1994 and would finish under .500 in 1999 as well.
Aftermath:  The Mariners used Garcia and a Halama as key parts in their 116-win season in 2001, but neither team made it to the World Series.  Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks in the off-season, netting the Astros Mike Rosamond and Jay Perez, or, as they’re more commonly known, “who?”
Winner:  The Astros won in the short term while the Mariners won a few years later.  In total, I’d say the Astros came out ahead.

Moral of the story:  Acquiring Hall of Fame pitchers in their prime is a good idea.

Traded 8: Curt Schilling
Trade 1
Backdrop:  The 1988 Red Sox needed another starting pitcher and the Baltimore Orioles wanted to pick up some young talent.
Trade:  The Red Sox dealt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Mike Boddiker.
Result: The Red Sox won the AL East but then were swept by the Oakland A’s in the ALCS, who then lost 4-1 to the LA Dodgers in the World Series.  The Orioles, after firing Cal Ripken (Sr.) after a 0-6 start, hired Frank Robinson on their way to a 54-107 finish.
Aftermath: Schilling did not do much for the Orioles until he was used as a reliever in 1990, but was dealt to the Astros before the 1991 season, then to the Phillies before the 1992 season.  Anderson had a few good seasons and then an amazing steroid-fueled season.  Boddiker pitched a few more solid seasons for the Red Sox before pitching in Kansas City and Milwaukee.
Winner:  The Orioles, as Anderson was a solid center fielder for about a decade, but they basically gave away Schilling (with Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley) for Glenn Davis to the Astros, who then gave him to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley.  Yes, Curt Schilling was really once traded STRAIGHT UP for Jason Grimsley.

Trade 2
Backdrop:  The 2000 Phillies wouldn’t spend money on players (just ask Scott Rolen) and the Diamondbacks needed one more top-flight pitcher to make them serious contenders.
Trade: The Phillies dealt Schilling to the Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.
Result: The Phillies lost 93 games, but the Diamondbacks went 28-32, missing the playoffs despite putting up a 3.69 ERA (130 ERA+) in 13 starts.
Aftermath:  The Diamondbacks won the World Series, largely due to Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001, while none of the pitchers amounted to much of anything (unless you were a part of Padilla Flotilla).
Winner:  The Diamondbacks, though it took a year to play out.

Moral of the story:  Curt Schilling was a great pitcher, but he was traded five times!  He was traded by the Red Sox to the Orioles to the Astros to the Phillies to the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox.

Either way, give it a few years and you’ll see who the winner of a trade was – unless one of the teams wins the World Series, then it was probably worth it all.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Carlos Correa: Real Deal or Future Bust? #Astros

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.

Carlos Correa - Source: Houston Chronicle

Source: Houston Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

  1. How many made it to the major leagues;
  2. Were successful major leaguers; and
  3. 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:

  1. Listed position when being drafted, assuming the likelihood of a player moving TO shortstop was exceedingly low;
  2. Filtered for shortstop (as opposed to college players);
  3. Filtered for players drafted out of short stop; and
  4. 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:

First Round HS SS in MLB Draft 1990-2007

38 players fit the requirements, including:

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.

Successful picks:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Alex Rodriguez:  Historic talent and historic centaur.

Good Picks:

  1. Pokey Reese:  Basically a defense-only player but, wow, could he pick it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Interesting Picks:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Colossal Flops:

  1. Brandon Wood:  Read about him here.
  2. Matt Bush:  Read about him here.

 Players Whose Places Have Yet to be Determined:

  1. BJ Upton:  Doesn’t walk, power is streaky, good center fielder.  Looks like he will stall out in the “Good Pick” category.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

No 1 Overall Pick Shortstop out of High School 1990-2007

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=correa000car

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?year_ID=2012&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lasorto01.shtml

http://www.perfectgame.org/players/playerprofile.aspx?ID=279388

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17173

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15295

Favorite Prospect Struggling? This could be a big problem.

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:

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.

Sources:

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=wood–002ric

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/woodbr01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wilsopa02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=wilson001pau

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/guzmajo03.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=guzman001irv

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=meulen001hen

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/meulehe01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mcpheda01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=mcpher001dal

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/v/vanpoto01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=vanpop001tod

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=1990&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg

Favorite Prospect Struggling? Might Be No Big Deal!

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.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltbr01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=belt–001bra

http://nbcbayarea.csnbayarea.com/05/27/12/Bochy-convinces-Belt-to-make-adjustment/nbcbay_landing.html?blockID=714996

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hosmeer01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/moorema02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/schmimi01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wietema01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=wieter001mat

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/alfoned01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=alfonz003edg

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltrad01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=beltre001adr

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/werthja01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=werth-001jay

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sandbry01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=sandbe001ryn

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Non-Hype Prospect – Johan Santana – @johansantana

As I walked back to my apartment from dinner Friday night, I noticed that I had a lot of text messages – a rarity as I do not text much – and I realized that Johan Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets.

Though many people know Santana’s exploits in the major leagues – the Cy Young awards, the sub-1 WHIPs – Santana’s path was anything but ordinary.  In 1995, the Houston Astros signed Santana out of Venezuela as a center fielder.  Due to his arm strength, left-handedness, and perceived inability to become a major league hitter, Santana was soon converted to a pitcher.  After finally being granted a visa, Santana was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros, where he put up a 7.93 ERA across nine games (five starts) and 36.1 innings.  Promoted to the Short Season A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, Santana made one four-inning start to end the season, allowing just one run and one hit, walking six and striking out five.

To start the 1998 season, Santana was held back in extended spring training, and was sent back to Auburn in June, striking out 88 while walking 21 in 86.1 innings over 15 starts, putting up a 4.36 ERA.  At the end of the season, Santana made two appearances for the full season A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.  Santana struggled in his two appearances, putting up a 9.45 ERA over 6.2 innings.

In 1999, Santana had his best season pitching for the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, putting up a 4.66 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) over 160.1 innings, striking out 150 and walking 55 in his age-20 season.

After the season, the Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule V draft, and, just two years after losing Bobby Abreu in the 1997 Expansion Draft, the Florida Marlins selected Santana with the second pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.  The Marlins then dealt Santana to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp, the first pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.

The Rule V draft is fascinating, as to be eligible for the Rule V draft, a player:

  • Is not included on the 40-man roster of the organization holding his contract; and
  • Either:
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least four years, if he was signed after his 19th birthday; or
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least five years, if he was signed before his 19th birthday.

In short, to hold onto Santana, all the Astros had to do was put him on the 40-man roster.  However, to hold onto Santana, the Twins were required to keep Santana on their major league roster for the 2000 entire season, something that is difficult to do when a young player has not played at a level even close to the majors.  The Twins, sensing the talent in Santana, kept him on the roster as the entire season as the long man and a spot starter, appearing in 30 games, pitching 86 innings with a 6.49 ERA.  In 2001, Santana served in a similar role, pitching 43.2 innings with a much-improved 4.74 ERA before straining his left elbow flexor and missing two months.

In 2002, Santana was to be turned back into a starter and opened the season in the minor leagues for the first time in two years, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 48.2 innings for the AAA Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League before being brought back to Minnesota.  Santana started to show his talent, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 start) for the Twins, striking out 137 and walking 49.

In 2003, Santana opened the season as a middle reliever for the Twins, putting up a 1.59 ERA in his first 11 appearances.  Santana made a spot start, going five innings against the high-powered offense of the Boston Red Sox, allowing no runs in five innings.  After seven more relief appearances with a 6.52 ERA, Santana became a starter for the duration of the season, putting up a sparkling 3.22 ERA across 92.1 innings, putting up an 8-2 record.  During the 2003 season, Santana put up a 3.07 ERA across 45 games (18 starts) while striking out 169 batters and walking 47 batters.  Despite the seemingly pedestrian statistics (though the 3.07 ERA was good for a 148 ERA+), Santana picked up one fifth-place Cy Young vote.

In 2004, Santana dominated, putting up a 2.61 ERA across 228 innings, striking out 265 with a 20-6 record.  Even more amazing was the second half of Santana’s season.  After putting up a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts across 123.2 innings, Santana overwhelmed opponents with a 1.21 ERA across 15 starts over 104.1 innings while averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Even more amazing was Santana’s final six starts of the season, all in September.  Across 40 innings, Santana allowed only two runs (both earned), while striking out 52.  After the season, Santana was awarded the American League Cy Young award.

Over the next three years, Santana established himself as one of the most reliable and dominating pitchers in the major leagues, winning another Cy Young, coming in third place and fifth place one time each.  From 2004 through 2007, Santana put up a 70-32 record, striking out 983 while walking 198 and allowing 705 hits.  In 2005, Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA.  In 2006, Santana went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 245 to lead the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive season.  Additionally, Santana won the pitching triple crown, leading the American league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.  In 2007, Santana seemed to take a step backwards, put up a 3.33 ERA across 219 innings and had his first WHIP higher than 1.000 since 2003.

After the season, the Twins, fearing Santana would leave as a free agent after his contract expired after 2008, looked for a team willing to give up multiple top prospects.   Rumors swirled around multiple large-market franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees.  The Yankees were rumored to be offering a number of packages involving different prospects, including Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Jeffrey Marquez, Ian Kennedy, and Jhonny Nunez.  The Red Sox were dangling a number of packages as well, including packages that included a combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester,  Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and veteran Coco Crisp.  The Dodgers were dangling packages involving prospects Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who was viewed as the best pitching prospect at the time.

While the Mets were rumored to be involved, they refused to part with top prospect Fernando Martinez, thereby significantly decreasing the possibility they would acquire the ace.  In the end, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers were unable to acquire Santana and it was the dark-horse Mets who acquired Santana for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey.

The Mets, fresh off one of the largest collapses in baseball history (at that point, possibly only eclipsed by the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS and the 1964 Phillies), needed to acquire another arm and make a splash.  Without giving up their top prospect, Fernando Martinez (#20 in Baseball America), the Mets were able to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game.  In the deal, the Mets paid a high price, as Deolis Guerra (#35 in Baseball America) was fresh off a season in High A St. Lucie as an 18-year old, an age most people are finishing up High School, Carlos Gomez (#52 in Baseball America, after being #60 in the previous year) showed significant upside in his brief trial with the Mets, Humber struggled in AAA after being the #3 overall pick in 2004, and Mulvey showed a lot of promise in AA after being a second round pick in 2006.  In short, while the Mets did not give up their top prospect, they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Santana.

In 2008, Santana did not disappoint.  Leading the National League with 34 starts, 234.1 innings, and 964 batters faced, Santana put up a 2.53 ERA and capped the season with one of his best starts of the season in the 161st game of the season, a sparkling 117-pitch complete game shutout, allowing three hits and walking three more, striking out nine against the Florida Marlins.  Unfortunately, the Mets struggled to complete the season yet again, missing out on the playoffs in the final day.  After the season, Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

In 2009, Santana pitched well, putting up a 3.13 ERA across 25 starts before being shut down in late August due to bone chips in his throwing shoulder after the Mets fell out of contention.  Santana would return in 2010, putting up a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts across 199 innings before being shut down in September due to an Anterior Capsule Tear.  A capsule is a soft tissue envelope that helps to attach to the scapula, humerus, and the head of the bicep.  Due to this injury, Santana missed nearly the entire 2011 season, only making two appearances at High A St. Lucie.

In 2012, Santana returned with a vengeance, striking out 68 in 68 innings, and leading the National League with 11 starts and two complete game shutouts, including the no hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history – 8,020 games.

After the game, Santana addressed the Mets, saying, “[t]onight we all made history, that’s all that matters.  I give it to you guys, because you guys made it happen.”  Santana’s game was amazing for a number of reasons, it was the first time he had fewer than three hits in a complete game and the most pitches he ever threw in one game, with his 134 pitches amounting to nine more than he had ever thrown in a professional baseball game.

By sheer coincidence (or was it?), the next day I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at CitiField where I, along with a number of other baseball fans, had the opportunity to hear a number of baseball writers including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and Ben Lindbergh; BP and SI.com’s Jay Jaffe; and MLB.com’s Corey Schwartz.  Additionally, there was a 30-minute question and answer session with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.  Alderson opened by discussing Santana’s outing, discussing Manager Terry Collins’ decision to allow Santana to throw 134 pitches despite only recently coming back from shoulder surgery.  Alderson, while showing a clear preference for not allowing Santana to throw 134 pitches, commented that “probabilities, mathematics take a back seat to emotion,” showing his support for Collins’ decision.

In the end, Santana’s no hitter, the first in Mets’ history, was something that he will remember for years and so will a great a number of Mets, former teammates, and sports fans.  But the best comment is from Johan Santana himself:

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.johansantana.org/johan-santana-mets-ace-57

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=santan001joh

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-10-most-interesting-rule-5-draft-picks-1981-2007/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/santajo02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=santajo02&t=p&year=2002

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=santajo02&t=p&year=2003

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_2003.shtml#ALcya

http://bronxrumors.blogspot.com/2009/08/johan-santana-trade-revisited.html

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3129086

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3138088

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/rumor_twins_ace_johan_santana_to_dodgers/

http://aarongleeman.com/tag/fernando-martinez/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=guerra001deo

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=gomez-003car

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=humber001phi

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=mulvey001kev

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martife02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=martin005jes

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=santajo02&t=p&year=2008

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN200809270.shtml

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16645

http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=755&position=P

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