Author Archive

Prospect Watch: The Effects of the 2012 CBA

In 2012, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association signed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Among other changes, the new agreement moved the signing deadline up a month, from mid-August to mid-July. It’s just a month, but it has had a noticeable effect on player development. Read the rest of this entry »


Prospect Watch: Deadline Acquisitions

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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James Ramsey, OF, Cleveland Indians (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 24.7   Top-15: 7th   Top-100: N/A
Line: (Double-A, Cardinals) 11.0% BB%, 23.5% SO%, ..300/.389/.527 (161 wRC+)

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Prospect Watch: Trade Deadline Stars

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Joc Pederson, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 22.3   Top-15: 2nd   Top-100: 58th
Line:  381 PA,  28.1 K%, 18.1 BB%, .324/.449/.576 (wRC+ 169) Read the rest of this entry »


Prospect Watch: New Cubs Hitters

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 19.10   Top-15: 3rd (OAK) Top-100: N/A
Line:  333 PA,  17.4 K%, 10.3 BB%, .241/.330/.400 (wRC+ 93)

Summary
The less heralded of the hitters the Cubs’ received in the Jeff Samardzija, McKinney was a 2013 first round selection who profiles as a corner outfielder.

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Prospect Watch: Christian Colon, Nick Ahmed

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Nick Ahmed, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 24.3   Top-15: N/A  Top-100: N/A
Line: (Triple-A) 366 PA,  12.5 K%, 8.9 BB%, .324/.390/.431 (wRC+ 119)

Summary
With Chris Owings on the Disabled List with a left shoulder strain, Ahmed will fill in at short.

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Prospect Watch: Futures Game Catchers

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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World Roster
Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers (Profile)

Level: High-A Age: 21   Top-15: 2   Top-100: 51
Line: 288 PA, 5.9 BB%, 24 SO%, .256/.316/.424  (107 wRC+) Read the rest of this entry »


Prospect Watch: Heaney, Pino and Parker Debut

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Andrew Heaney, LHP, Florida Marlins (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 23   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 31st
Line: (Triple-A) 23.0 IP, 10.57 K/9, 0.78 BB/9, .39 HR/9, 2.07 FIP

Summary
The Marlins have called up their top prospect, Andrew Heaney. He will debut tonight against the Mets and Zack Wheeler.

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Prospect Watch: MLB Draft Debut Projections – Aiken, Rodon, Conforto

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Prospect Watch: Shark Hunting

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Rebuilding organizations frequently shop their short-term assets to support the cause. Major League Baseball’s worst team, the Chicago Cubs, are proud employers of Jeff Samardzija and less than proud owners of a .370 winning average. The Shark’s contract will expire at the conclusion of the 2015 season, which should predate the club’s success. While Chicago has the financial ability to extend him, it’s likely he’s traded at the July deadline.

Based on Marc Hulet’s pre-season Top 100, the Cubs’ farm system is stacked.  Their 7 prospects were the most of any team (tied with Boston) and 5 of their Cubs’ hitters were ranked within the Top 52. Rumors suggest the Cubs would like to add an arm to their cadre of budding stars.

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1. The Toronto Blue Jays
Why: The Jays have been linked to Samardzija for weeks and they could use the his help. The Blue Jays rank 19th in RA/G and could use a replacement for J.A. Happ and/or Dustin McGowan. The combination of desperation and a difficult division makes than a likely front-runner.

Aaron Sanchez (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 22nd
Line: 54.1 IP, 4.65 FIP, 7.12 K/9, 6.14 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9 (.270 BABIP)

Summary
Untouchable during the R.A. Dickey trade, his 2014 performance no longer justifies that tag. Sanchez’s primary issue has always been his inability to consistently throw strikes. Sanchez suffers from a common ailment; many top starters battle control issues in the minor leagues, but Sanchez has shown little improvement over the years. The competition for Samardzija, who is relatively inexpensive at $5.35M, may be so tough that Sanchez may not satisfy the Cubs as their keystone piece.

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Prospect Watch: Updates on Top and Injured Prospects

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 20   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 1st
Line: 20 PA, 0.0% BB, 40.0% K, 1 HR, .150/.150/.350 (.182 BABIP) at High-A

Summary
Buxton and Mike Trout have very little in common at the moment as the Twins’ center fielder has been injured longer than expected.

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Prospect Watch: Cecchini and Flores and Their New Futures

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

Read the rest of this entry »


Prospect Watch: Forcing the Issue

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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In today’s edition of Prospect Watch, we discuss minor leaguers who could help their Major League clubs soon.

Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 21   Top-15: 12th   Top-100: N/A
Line: 106 PA, 15.6% BB, 16.5% K, .253/.367/.418 (.271 BABIP)

Summary
The Mike Moustakas experiment must end.

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Prospect Watch: Jose Ramirez, James Jones

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Jose Ramirez, 2B, Cleveland Indians (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 20   Top-15: 5th   Top-100: N/A
Line: (Triple-A) 105 PA, 8.6% BB, 7.6% K, .319/.365/.484 (.381 BABIP)

Summary
With Jason Kipnis on DL with a strained right oblique, Jose Ramirez will be a solid replacement.

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Prospect Watch: Don’t Forget the Approach

The results of statistical studies are often intuitive, but quantifying our intuition can be useful. Last week, David Laurila published an interview with Carlos Beltran that reminded me of plate discipline data that Jeff Zimmerman and I discussed this off-season. First, Mr. Beltran on his approach:

I…concentrate on getting a pitch in an area I know I can handle. If it’s a pitch on the outside corner, I know I can’t do much with that pitch. Unless I have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. If it’s a pitch on the inside corner and I don’t have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. That’s a pitch where, even if I take a good hack, I feel I’m not going to do much with it. I have to look for a pitch out over the strike zone, in or away. Basically, near the middle.

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Prospect Watch: The Mets’ Return for Ike Davis

Each weekday during the minor league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top 15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top 100, which is that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top 100 list.

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Last season, the Pirates finished second in the National League Central. Their playoff run was to be the beginning of something special in Pittsburgh, but they’ve stumbled early. Currently, they’re fourth in the National League’s toughest division, six games behind the surging Brewers. While it’s too early to be concerned, the Pirates acquired Ike Davis from the Mets to platoon with Gaby Sanchez. After years of illness, injuries, and ineffectiveness, Davis was in need of a change of scenery, so the Mets shipped him to Pittsburgh for a relief pitcher (Zack Thorton) and a Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL).

What follows is an examination both of Thornton and two potential candidates for that PTBNL.

Zack Thornton, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 25   Top 15: N/A   Top 100: N/A
Line: 7.1 IP, 9.82 K/9, 1.23 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 1.55 FIP

Summary
Attacking hitters from a low arm slot, Thornton has been a statistical darling.

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Prospect Watch: George Springer Edition

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 24   Top-15: 2nd   Top-100: 14th
Line: 61 PA, 14.8% BB, 24.6% K, .353/.489/.647 (.455 BABIP) [Triple-A]

Summary
Super athlete. Superstar? Springer showcased his skills during a stellar debut last night.

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Prospect Watch: Montero, Dahl, and Kelly

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 23   Top-15: 5th   Top-100: 94th
Line: 11.0 IP, 11.45 K/9, 0.82 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 0.93 FIP

Summary
The Mets’ diminutive right-hander has torched the Pacific Coast League (PCL) thus far, but the organization may need to get creative if its to best utilize his services.

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Can Diamondback Jake Lamb Survive?

Knock on wood, I certainly hope so. This piece isn’t about sending a tribute to the area, rather it is a discussion of the composition of the minor leagues and those who reach the major leagues.

While this article became a study of a the California League’s population, the concept began when I was thinking about Jake Lamb‘s prospect status. Lamb signed with the Diamondbacks last June and I stumbled upon him during his first Spring Training with the club — he ranked among the 10 best prospects I saw in Arizona. Intrigued, I followed his injury-riddled season closely and thought he would never garner the attention I believed he deserved because of his old age and collegiate pedigree (though, Hulet ranked him higher than anyone else this off season!).  Suddenly, I found myself buried in Excel attempting to discover what Jake Lamb’s chances were to become a major leaguer.

Statistical studies of prospects are difficult because the minor leagues are vast and rife with variables and failure. There are 189 teams across 16 full-season, short season and rookie leagues, each stocked with talent that may never make a major league 25-man roster. With over 5,000 minor leaguers vying for 750 MLB roster spots it can be easier to study the successes.

Studying only the players who reach the major leagues may be easier, but often such studies snag on “survivorship bias.” Survivorship bias may be present when a study’s population consists of a select group amongst a larger class. If one is going to study success, it’s wise to study failure too. For a demonstration of survivorship bias, read Dave Cameron’s post on The Value of Hunter Pence.

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Does Baseball Need the Draft?

The Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft begins this week. The modern draft was instituted in 1987, but a filtration system for entry-level talent existed before World War II. Today, the draft exists for two purposes — competitive balance and wage suppression, with the former being publicly cited as the reason for its existence but the latter being more of the actual motivation for the league. Let’s put aside the wage suppression issue for a minute, though — noting that nearly every corporation in America is essentially in the business of minimizing their labor costs — and focus on the competitive balance aspect of the draft.

To many, competitive balance is essential to their enjoyment of Major League Baseball. The satisfaction of these observers — fans — is directly related to the profitability of Major League Baseball. In other words, so long as fans are emotionally and economically invested in the sport, Major League Baseball will continue to profit.

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For Prospects, Age Can Be More Than Just A Number

The importance of prospects’ ages is frequently debated. Comparing one’s age to the age of to his competition adds significant context, but age is just a number. Age alone hardly provides enough context to discern its true relevance to an individual’s performance.

In one instance, a player’s age without further evidence is meaningful — when a player is young for his league, it demonstrates his organization’s confidence in his abilities. Each player development department knows its players best. They monitor their players’ development daily on and off the field. Over time, an organization builds the largest observation sample of its own talent and it is in the best position to evaluate its players. To be clear, a player’s age relative to his league does not make him a prospect. His abilities do. When a prospects is placed in an advanced league it is a confirmation of his abilities by his organization. Read the rest of this entry »