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The Top-Five Yankees Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the New York Yankees. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not New York’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Yankees system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Yankees system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Ramon Flores, OF (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .238 .305 .369 89 0.9

McDaniel notes with regard to Flores that, despite entering just his age-23 season, that he’s nearly a finished product. It’s not surprising, then, to see Flores’ name appear here among the Yankees’ top rookie-eligible players. What it also means is that, unlike with other prospects at the same point on the age curve, it’s probably not correct to assume that Flores will improve considerably over the next three or so years. Defensively, Flores receives a projection of about -3 runs — that is, roughly half way between a league-average center fielder and corner outfielder. This, too, supports McDaniel’s assertion that Flores is capable of playing (if not necessarily excelling at) all three outfield spots.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Boston Red Sox

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Boston Red Sox. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / Oakland / San Diego / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington

Batters
Despite the considerable investments made by the club both in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this offseason — amounting to nearly $200 million collectively, those contracts — the top WAR projection among all Red Sox players belongs to their second-round pick from the 2004 draft. Dustin Pedroia produced the lowest slugging and isolated-power figures (.376 and .098, respectively) of his career last year, while also recording a career-worst strikeout rate (12.3%). ZiPS calls for Pedroia to find some positive regression in all three areas while still retaining his elite second-base defense.

Probably also capable of providing if not elite, then at least above-average, second-base defense is Mookie Betts. Owing to the continued employment by the club of Pedroia, however, Betts will be forced to supply above-average defense elsewhere. In this case, the most likely destination is right field. It would fair to say that Betts doesn’t possess the typical right-field profile, featuring less power and size than most who play the position. He has excellent plate-discipline skills, however, plus speed and non-negligible power on contact. Note that Betts’ defensive projection below (of -1 runs) is for center field. The equivalent in right would be about +6 or +7 runs saved.

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FanGraphs Audio: The Consummate Kiley McDaniel

Episode 523
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses Baltimore prospects and Washington prospects and Mookie Betts.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 2 min play time.)

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Chicago Cubs

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Chicago Cubs. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Chicago AL / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / Oakland / San Diego / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington

Batters
“Why do you hate Jorge Soler?” is a reaction zero people expressed via Twitter on Thursday when the author shared the depth-chart image below by way of that same social-media platform. What certain respondents did note, however, is that they’d take the over on Soler’s 1.0 WAR projection. Which, one comment regarding that: due (presumably) to limited playing time in the past, ZiPS only forecasts Soler for 345 plate appearances in 2015. That’s 1.7 WAR per 600 plate appearances — a substantial figure, that, for a player who’s recorded just a half-season’s worth of games above High-A.

Conspicuous by his absence in that same depth-chart image below is third-base prospect Kris Bryant, who receives the club’s highest projected WAR here, according to ZiPS, and the second-highest by Steamer. Whether he’ll be part of the opening-day roster isn’t really a question ZiPS, being a computer model, is prepared to answer. There appears to be some evidence, however, that when he does appear in the majors, he (i.e. Bryant) will be among the club’s very best field players.

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Dominican League Performance as Indicator of Future Value

At the end of October, the present author published a not entirely exhaustive study which considered to what degree success in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) either did or did not portend future major-league success. Specifically, I looked at those AFL pitchers who’d finished either among the top or bottom third of that league’s starters by strikeout rate — the justification being that strikeout rate (a) is not only a fairly reliable indicator of success, but also (b) becomes stable in relatively small samples.

Even more specifically, I did this:

To better understand how much pitcher strikeout rate in the AFL rate might inform future major-league success, I looked at AFL pitchers from 2005 to -09 who’d both (a) faced 70 or more batters (that is, the sample threshold at which strikeout rate becomes reliable for major-league pitchers) and also (b) made at least half their appearances as starts. Each year in the DWL there are about 25-30 pitchers who meet both those criteria. For each of the five years in question, I isolated both the top and bottom third by AFL strikeout rate, resulting in 43 “high strikeout” and 43 “low strikeout” pitchers (although it should be noted that Adam Bostick appears twice among the high-strikeout group, thus leaving the former group with just 42 different actual players).

Despite the fact that Arizona Fall League performance is largely ignored — or, when it is cited, couched in a surfeit of qualifiers — the results of the study indicate that those pitchers who perform well in the AFL are more likely to perform well in the majors. By a reasonable margin, it seems. Again, the findings hardly suggest that AFL performance ought to be utilized without any context at all, but merely that — so far as pitchers are concerned, at least — it appears to provide non-negligible information regarding future value.

Of course, the AFL isn’t the only extant fall or winter league. Indeed, a number of other players — prospects as well as veterans and journeymen — all participate in the various Caribbean Leagues, the playoffs for which are currently underway in their respective countries. “What?” I asked myself in the service of ignoring something much darker and foreboding in my life, “what might winter-league performance say or not say about a particular pitcher’s future value?”

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The Top-Five Orioles Prospects by Projected WAR

Yesterday afternoon, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Baltimore Orioles. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Baltimore’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Orioles system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Orioles system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

t3. Christian Walker, 1B (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .247 .301 .403 97 0.2

Last year, Walker hit 26 home runs in 599 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A, recording a rate of 29 homers per 600 plate appearances at a ballpark that inflates that sort of batted ball by about 25% and then a rate of about 19 per 600 plate appearances a park that deflates home runs by roughly the same factor. This hardly leads to any strong conclusions about Walker’s power. That said, as a first baseman who lacks a decidedly above-average hit tool or walk rate, Walker’s success at the majors is probably contingent on hitting home runs. He’s projected to hit 19 per 600 plate appearances at the majors in 2015.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Cleveland Indians

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Cleveland Baseball Club. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / Oakland / San Diego / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
Cleveland finished tied with Houston in 2014 for last place among all clubs in defensive runs. That’s not ever really a “positive” distinction. That said, were one in the business of identifying silver linings, a legitimate one in this case might concern how defensive metrics are prone to greater regression than most offensive stats — and thus projection systems such as ZiPS are unlikely to weight seasons like Cleveland’s 2014 campaign as heavily.

By the projections, the 2015 iteration of Cleveland’s baseball team doesn’t actually profile as a particularly bad defensive club. Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana are all forecast to finish on the negative side of the defensive ledger relative to their position, but Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes and Jose Ramirez are all projected to save more runs than average at their respective positions. The result, it would appear, is a roughly league-average group of hitters.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Scherzer

Episode 522
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he analyzes Max Scherzer’s contract with Washington and also not that.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 36 min play time.)

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Arizona Diamondbacks

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / Oakland / San Diego / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
Offensively, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has evolved into a broadly skilled weapon, reproducing not only the above-average home-run and walk rates that he posted in the minors, but also recording above-average BABIP and base-running figures. His projection for 2015 suggests he’ll continue doing all these sorts of things.

Nor is Goldschmidt alone in his hitting abilities. David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, Yasmany Tomas, and Mark Trumbo are all starters forecast to produce above-average offensive lines. For all them, with the exception of Pollock, the question is less of offensive — and more of defensive — ability. There’s a real possibility, supported by ZiPS, that each is occupying a place on the defensive spectrum probably more demanding than the actual skills warrant.

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FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel, As Per Usual

Episode 521
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses Byron Buxton and particularly athletic catchers and the scouting grades of current major leaguers.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 48 min play time.)

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Minnesota Twins

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Minnesota Twins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / New York NL / Oakland / San Diego / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
It isn’t sound practice merely to find the sum of all the WAR projections in the depth-chart image below, add those to the 48 or so wins which constitute a replacement-level team, and then regard the result as the club’s ZiPS win projection. That said, examining the forecasts for those players expected to begin the season on Minnesota’s opening-day roster, it’s difficult to conclude that this club is destined to win much more than 70 games.

Moderately heartbreaking is Joe Mauer‘s very regular two-win projection. If it seems low, that’s not necessarily a novel sentiment. Multiple readers suggested last year, when ZiPS produced a 2.8 WAR figure for Mauer, that they’d take the over. It would have been a losing bet, that: even with a .342 BABIP, he recorded only a 106 wRC+. In the context of the first-base positional adjustment, that’s too little offense.

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The Top-Five Nationals Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Washington Nationals. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Washington’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Nationals system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Nationals system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Austin Voth, RHP (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
150 6.5 3.4 1.0 4.43 0.5

Even though he features just a fringe-average fastball, Voth has had considerable success in his two seasons of affiliated baseball, producing strikeout and walk rates of 27.9% and 6.5% over 173.0 innings. And while he pitched in college, he’s also generally skewed towards the young side of average relative to his levels, so it’s not as though he’s merely preying on less experiences competition. He ended the 2014 season with Double-A Harrisburg and profiles as something better than a replacement-level starter entering 2015.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – San Diego Padres

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the San Diego Padres. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / New York NL / Oakland / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
Unsurprisingly, given the zeal with which general manager AJ Preller et al. sought to turn over the roster this offseason, the four most encouraging WAR projections for Padres hitters belong to players who were acquired over the past month-plus. Surprisingly, perhaps — at least given the profile of the deal — none of those four are Matt Kemp. He’s forecast to produce among the top offensive lines on the club, but also -9 runs defensively in a corner-outfield spot. Wil Myers‘ defensive projection in center field (-12 runs) also fails to inspire hope.

An earlier version of the depth-chart image for the Padres — published by the author via Twitter on Tuesday night — featured Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz combining for five projected wins. In point of fact, the sum of their WAR forecasts is closer to five than any other whole number; the sum of their plate appearances is above 800, though, also. The number has been prorated to four wins here. Still enough, that, to profile as one of the team’s strongest positions.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron, Pater Familias

Episode 520
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he analyzes both baseball and also two weeks of parenthood.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 43 min play time.)

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2015 ZiPS Projections – New York Mets

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the New York Mets. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Oakland / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
Mets batters produced 18.2 WAR collectively in 2014, an almost precisely average figure among the league’s 30 clubs. Given the projections below, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them replicate that effort in 2015. All eight of the team’s likely starters are forecast to produce something between 0.9 and 3.8 WAR — and six of them, between 1.8 to 3.1 WAR.

An area of some interest with regard to the club seems to be how Terry Collins et al. contend with Lucas Duda and Lucas Duda’s difficulties with left-handed pitching. Despite a strong 2014 season, the Mets first baseman produced only a 54 wRC+ against left handers. By way of comparison, the worst overall figure among the game’s 146 qualified batters in 2014 was Zack Cozart‘s 56 wRC+. Either John Mayberry (333 PA, -0.1 WAR) or even Eric Campbell (416 PA, 0.5 WAR) are candidates to platoon with Duda.

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FanGraphs Audio: At Some Length with Kiley McDaniel

Episode 519
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses the possibility of estimating a prospect’s BABIP, certain results of Chris Mitchell’s KATOH prospect forecasting work, and also his lists for the Mets and Padres.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 16 min play time.)

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The Top-Five Marlins Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Miami Marlins. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Miami’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Marlins system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Marlins system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP (Profile)

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR
50 8.7 3.8 0.9 3.86 0.1

Caminero is part of a small collection of minor-league pitchers whose fastball has been identified independently as hitting 100 mph or higher. It’s possible to fail even with that sort of velocity, but the margin of error is larger. Caminero hasn’t thrown quite that hard in limited major-league exposure, sitting more at 95-96 mph. But he’s generated sufficient whiffs both with that and his changeup to compensate for a relative paucity of strikes.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Houston Astros

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Houston Astros. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Chicago AL / Colorado / Detroit / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Oakland / San Francisco / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Washington.

Batters
Speaking on the topic of happiness, Greek philosopher Epicurus endorsed not the unadulterated pursuit of greater and ever more lavish pleasures, as is frequently believed. Almost the opposite, in fact. By only occasionally indulging in a “pot of cheese,” for example, Epicurus effectively lowered his threshold for pleasure, such that easy attainable goods or experiences could provide it in sufficient quantity.

Compared to other major-league teams, the Astros do not appear particularly strong. Only three of their hitters, for example — or seven fewer than on the Dodgers — are projected to reach the two-win threshold this year. Compared to the 2014 edition of the club, however, this would represent a 200% improvement. A strong collection of young talent in the minors serves as further grounds for optimism.

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Chris Mitchell on KATOH and Forecasting Prospects

Just before the start of the new year, Chris Mitchell published at The Hardball Times some expanded results from his work on KATOH, the name he’s given to a methodology for estimating not only the probability of a particular minor-league prospect graduating to the majors, but also — in this expanded version — for estimating actual WAR thresholds prospects are likely to cross given their minor-league resumes.

Mitchell’s work advances our understanding of which metrics at the minor-league level correlate most highly with major-league success. Below are five questions I asked regarding these most recent findings, and Mitchell’s answers concerning same.

*****

Because you’ll do a better job of it than I would, could you provide a brief explanation of KATOH — in particular, of the variables that most directly inform it?

KATOH aims to answer a series of questions about a minor-league baseball player: “How likely is this player to play at least one game in the majors through age 28?” and “How likely is it that he’ll reach certain performance benchmarks — 4, 6, 8, 12, and 16 WAR — through age 28?” I arrived at these probabilities by running probit regression analyses, which tell us how a variety of inputs influence an outcome that has two possible outcomes. In this case, the variables in question include a player’s age and some of his offensive stats relative to league average: strikeout percentage, walk percentage, isolated slugging, batting average on balls in play, and frequency of stolen base attempts.

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FG on FOX: The Next Garrett Richards

In an appearance on FanGraphs Audio in early 2012, shortly after the latter had been traded to the Yankees in a deal that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle, managing editor Dave Cameron spoke to the possible reasons for then-rookie Michael Pineda‘s success in 2011 despite the almost total absence of a changeup. The changeup, or at least some manner of pitch defined more by its vertical than its horizontal movement, is regarded generally as a prerequisite for success as a starting pitcher. By way of example, consider: of 2011′s 94 qualified pitchers, only seven (or, 7.4%) threw their curveball, changeup, and/or splitter a combined 10% or less. One of those seven was R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer. Another was Alexi Ogando, a reliever throwing in a starter’s role. Other pitchers with other unique circumstances occupied the remainder of the list.

Michael Pineda was a member of that group, as well. Despite throwing either a fastball or slider about 94% of the time in 2011, Pineda produced an excellent rookie season, recording the 11th-best strikeout- and walk-rate differential among that same group of qualifiers, a park-adjusted xFIP 13% better than league average, and the second-best WAR figure among all rookies (including hitters).

Other pitchers had exhibited the ability to survive without some manner of downward-moving pitch, but all of them were attended by an explanation. What, I asked, was Pineda’s? Cameron’s answer: If you throw 95 mph and also feature better-than-average control, you have a larger margin for error than pitchers who don’t have or do those things.

Indeed, Pineda’s combination of velocity and control wasn’t common. In 2011, the league-average walk rate was 8.1%. Only five starting pitchers posted a walk rate lower than that league-average mark while also recording an average fastball velocity of 94.5 mph or better.

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.