Author Archive

Projecting the Prospects in the Dan Straily Trade

Dan Straily is on his way to becoming a Marlin. According to reports, the Reds have agreed to deal the soft-tossing, veteran righty for a trio of prospects. We’ll have more on the trade in a bit. For the moment, here’s what my KATOH system has to say about the players who are newly employed by the Cincinnati Reds organization. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

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Austin Brice, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 0.9 WAR
KATOH+: 0.9 WAR

After an underwhelming tenure as a starter in the minors, Brice had success in the bullpen last year. Following a move to the pen in June, he posted a 2.10 ERA and 2.90 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A, earning him a September call-up. Brice’s recent minor-league numbers suggest he’ll have a future in the show, even if it’s a short-lived one. KATOH gives him a 50% chance of pitching in the majors again. But as a soon-to-be 25-year-old relief prospect without much track record, he isn’t likely to make a big impact. KATOH considered Brice to be the 10th-best prospect in the Marlins’ system, which says more about the Marlins’ system than it does about Brice.

To put some faces to Brice’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the hard-throwing righty. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Brice’s performance this year and every Double- and Triple-A season since 1991 in which a pitcher recorded at least 350 batters faced. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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Projecting the Prospects Seattle Traded Yesterday

The Mariners continued their early-January flurry of activity yesterday, swinging two trades in short succession. First, they dealt left-handed pitchers Thomas Burrows and Luiz Gohara to the Braves for Mallex Smith and intriguing arm Shae Simmons. They promptly flipped Smith, along with prospects Carlos Vargas and Ryan Yarbrough, to the Rays for Drew Smyly.

The most interesting players in this deal are likely the two who’ll make an immediate big-league impact — Smith and Smyly — the former of whom KATOH adored heading into 2016. But the other players changing hands also have their merits. Here’s what my KATOH system has to say about the players who spent most of 2016 playing in the domestic minor leagues.

Note that new Atlanta prospect Burrows is omitted due to a lack of professional experience; new Tampa prospect Vargas, because KATOH doesn’t account for Dominican Summer League numbers, which are the only sort Vargas has produced. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

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Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta (Profile)

KATOH: 3.1 WAR
KATOH+: 2.7 WAR

Gohara posted an ERA well above 5.00 over his first three seasons as a pro, but really found his groove last year as a 19-year-old. In 15 starts across two levels of A-ball, he pitched to a dazzling 3.04 FIP on the strength of a 29% strikeout rate. Gohara was one of the more dominant arms in the low minors.

KATOH isn’t completely sold yet, though, as Gohara has a few negative variables in his profile. For one, he was decidedly bad as recently as 2015, which wasn’t terribly long ago. He’s also never pitched above Low-A, meaning he’s largely untested against high-quality hitters and still has a few years of development that have yet to occur. Even his strong 2016 numbers came in a small sample — 79 innings — so KATOH’s a bit skeptical of the track record he does have.

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Projecting Yesterday’s Rule 5 Picks

This year’s Rule 5 draft came and went yesterday, with 18 players selected in the major-league phase of the draft. All the players selected will need to spend the entire 2017 season on their new team’s active roster (or disabled list). Otherwise, they have to be offered back to their original team.

Here’s how the minor leaguers selected grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

Player listed in order of draft selection.

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Miguel Diaz, RHP, San Diego (Profile)

KATOH: 0.7 WAR
KATOH+: 0.7 WAR

Scouts love Diaz’s stuff, but it took him five years to get to the Low-A level and he wasn’t particularly dominant there in 2016. He pitched to a 3.71 ERA in 95 innings as a swingman with pedestrian strikeout and walk numbers. Every organization has several players with Diaz’s statistical profile, but the Padres think there’s more to Diaz than his stats.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Adam Eaton Trade

Just one day after they dealt away Chris Sale for an impressive crop of young talent, the White Sox continued their tear-down yesterday by flipping Adam Eaton for another nice haul. This time, they landed three young pitchers (roughly in order of consensus future value): Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Chicago grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

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Lucas Giolito, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 5.8 WAR (47th overall)
KATOH+: 10.8 WAR (9th overall)

Giolito is one of those cases where the scouting reports outstrip the on-field performance. Scouts have long raved about Giolito’s fastball-curveball combination, and he parlayed it into dominance at the lower rungs of the minor leagues in 2014 and 2015. He was a consensus top-five prospect at this time last year, but things got a little rough for him in 2016.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Chris Sale Trade

The Red Sox acquired a second pitcher on Tuesday following their trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg — in this case, receiving talented left-handed starter Chris Sale from the White Sox in exchange for an impressive return (roughly in order of consensus future value): Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz.

Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Chicago grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

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Yoan Moncada, 2B (Profile)

KATOH: 6.2 WAR (36th overall)
KATOH+: 14.0 WAR (4th overall)

There’s no denying that Yoan Moncada was one of the most productive hitters in the minors this year. In 61 High-A games, he hit .307/.427/.496. In 44 Double-A games, he slashed .285/.388/.547. He 45 stolen bases across both levels. Moncada excels in multiple areas: he hits for power, runs like crazy, and plays a semi-premium position. His tools are top-notch, which is why he was the consensus No. 1 prospect last summer.

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KATOH’s Guide to the 2016 Rule 5 Draft

The deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft was Friday, November 18th. This means that all Rule 5 eligible players who are not currently on a 40-man roster will be available in the draft on December 8th. Here’s what makes a player Rule 5 eligible, according to MLB.com:

Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.

For the coming version of the Rule 5 draft, that’s generally any player drafted out of college in 2013 or earlier, drafted out of high school in 2012 or earlier, or signed as an international free agent in 2012 or earlier. That’s just a rule of thumb, but since very few things in life are simple, there are exceptions and loopholes.

Most of the players listed below aren’t good prospects. If they were, their former teams would have protected them — or traded them to a team with an interest in stashing them. The baseball industry has effectively deemed each of these players to be a fringe prospect at best. Who cares about these mostly bad baseball players? Probably a very tiny sliver of the world’s population, if I’m being honest. But if you you’re still reading, I’m willing to bet you’re part of that small minority. And besides, several Rule 5 picks from recent memory have enjoyed immediate big-league success, including Joe Biagini, Matt Bowman and Odubel Herrera.

Below, you’ll find a list of KATOH‘s favorite Rule 5-eligible prospects, grouped by position. Due to the aforementioned loopholes, along with the fact that I checked each player’s eligibility manually, it’s possible I omitted a noteworthy player along the way. All players with at least 200 professional plate appearances or batters faced in 2016 were considered. Note that KATOH denotes the relevant player’s WAR projection over his first six major-league seasons, while KATOH+ denotes the same thing while also accounting for the player’s place (or not) among Baseball America’s top-100 rankings.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Pitchers

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript minor leaguers become minor-league free agents. Players are granted minor-league free agency when they’re omitted from a club’s 40-man roster and have also spent at least six years in the minor leagues. In other words, they’re players who weren’t good enough to merit a call-up after several years in the minors, and their organizations suspect they lack the potential to be worthy of a 40-man spot.

Some of these players latch on with new organizations; some of them don’t. But regardless, the overwhelming majority never have much big league success. A couple of years ago, Carson Cistulli found that only about 1% of minor-league free agents produce at least 0.5 WAR the following season. Minor-league free agents are the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to player transactions. But there’s an occasional gem at the bottom of that barrel. It’s not unheard of, at all, for a minor-league free agent to make a major-league impact. Here, in no particular order, are some notable examples from the past few years: Gregor Blanco, Jesus Guzman, Donovan Solano, Yangervis Solarte, Jake Smolinski, Jose Quintana and Al Alburquerque. Each left his original organization via minor-league free agency, but achieved some level of big-league success with his new team.

Using my KATOH projection system, I identified the pitchers from this year’s minor-league free-agent class who showed glimmers of promise in the minors. Based on their minor-league numbers, there’s reason to believe they might be able to help at the big-league level sometime soon. This analysis only considers pitchers who faced at least 200 minor-league batters in 2016. For reference, here’s a similar article I wrote last year, and a post from yesterday looking at minor-league free-agent hitters.

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1) Jacob Turner, RHP, 2.8 WAR

Turner was the ninth-overall pick back in 2009, and broke in with the Tigers as a 20-year-old in 2011. Six years and three new organizations later, his career is at a crossroads. Turner hasn’t had much success getting big-league hitters out, as evidenced by his 323 big-league innings of 5.00 ERA ball. It’s been a struggle for Turner, but he’s still just 25 and is coming off of a solid showing in Triple-A last year. Despite an unsightly ERA, the 6-foot-4 righty posted a 3.69 FIP at the highest level of the minors with the White Sox. The book isn’t closed on his career yet.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Hitters

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript minor leaguers become minor-league free agents. Players are granted minor-league free agency when they’re omitted from a club’s 40-man roster and have also spent at least six years in the minor leagues. In other words, they’re players who weren’t good enough to merit a call-up after several years in the minors, and their organizations suspect they lack the potential to be worthy of a 40-man spot.

Some of these players latch on with new organizations; some of them don’t. But regardless, the overwhelming majority never have much big league success. A couple of years ago, Carson Cistulli found that only about 1% of minor-league free agents produce at least 0.5 WAR the following season. Minor-league free agents are the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to player transactions. But there’s an occasional gem at the bottom of that barrel. It’s not unheard of, at all, for a minor-league free agent to make a major-league impact. Here, in no particular order, are some notable examples from the past few years: Gregor Blanco, Jesus Guzman, Donovan Solano, Yangervis Solarte, Jake Smolinski, Jose Quintana and Al Alburquerque. Each left his original organization via minor-league free agency, but achieved some level of big-league success with his new team.

Using my KATOH projection system, I identified the hitters from this year’s minor-league free-agent class who showed glimmers of promise in the minors. Based on their minor-league numbers, there’s reason to believe they might be able to help at the big-league level sometime soon. This analysis only considers players who logged at least 200 minor-league plate appearances in 2016. For reference, here’s a similar article I wrote last year. Tomorrow, I’ll repeat this exercise for pitchers.

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1) Todd Glaesmann, OF, 2.2 WAR

For the second year in a row, Glaesmann hit respectably in the upper levels of the minor leagues. He spent 2016 at the Diamondbacks’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, where he turned in a .272/.312/.462 performance. Glaesmann’s numbers aren’t flashy, but he’s hit for a healthy amount of power while simultaneously not striking out terribly often.

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Projecting Dodgers Left Fielder Andrew Toles

I’ll be honest: three months ago, I had never heard of Andrew Toles. I first became aware of the 24-year-old’s existence back in July when I was finalizing my latest KATOH model, and Toles projected favorably. Even then, I didn’t give him much thought. Sure, his performance was encouraging, but he was hardly the only obscure player with a great projection. While I’d contend that all prospects of this ilk deserve more attention, most of Toles’ success had come below the Triple-A level. KATOH is built for the long game, and relatively few A-ballers have an immediate big-league impact.

Toles had an immediate big-league impact. He started hitting as soon as the Dodgers promoted him to the majors in July and he hasn’t stopped since. He ended the year with a .314/.365/.505 batting line in 48 games and played his way into near-regular playing time against right-handed pitchers. His .385 BABIP suggests luck played a role, but at the very least, he showed he belongs on a big-league roster.

Toles’ minor-league numbers from this year strongly resemble what he did in LA. In fact, they were a bit better. Between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, he slashed .331/.374/.511. Toles made a reasonable amount of contact, showed a healthy amount of power and was active on the bases — all while playing mostly center field. From AbBall to the majors, it’s hard to poke holes in what Toles has done this year.

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Projecting Manny Margot and Other Padres Call-Ups

Following the end of their Triple-A affiliate’s championship season in the Pacific Coast League, the San Diego Padres promoted a small collection of players to their major-league club on Tuesday. Below are forecasts for the three most notable prospects of that group — Carlos Asuaje, Hunter Renfroe, and Manuel Margot — according to my KATOH system and presented in order of projected WAR.

Note that KATOH represents the WAR projection for the relevant player’s first six years in the majors; KATOH+ is that same thing, except with the player’s Baseball America ranking included as a variable.

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Manny Margot, CF (Profile)

KATOH: 13.0 WAR
KATOH+: 13.6 WAR

Margot’s game centers around speed and contact. The 21-year-old struck out in just 12% of his plate appearances in Triple-A this year on his way to a .307/.355/.442 slash line. He also racked up an exciting 32 steals, while playing elite center field defense by Clay Davenport’s numbers. Margot also isn’t a zero in the power department, as he managed a respectable 46 extra-base hits in the minors this year, including seven homers. He’s one of the very best prospects in baseball by my math, and he’s big-league ready.

To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Margot’s first six seasons in the major leagues.

margot

To put some faces to Margot’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the speedy outfielder. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Margot’s performance this year and every Triple-A season since 1991 in which a center fielder recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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Projecting Oakland Call-Ups Renato Nunez and Matt Olson

On Monday, the Oakland Athletics promoted a couple of hitting prospects from Triple-A: Renato Nunez and Matt Olson. Both Nunez and Olson came off the bench on Monday to make their big-league debuts. With Billy Butler out of the picture, and Danny Valencia likely soon to follow, Nunez and Olson might see a decent chunk of playing time these next two weeks.

Olson’s numbers have trended in the wrong direction since his 37-homer season in the Cal League in 2014. He slashed .249/.388/.438 in Double-A last year and only managed to hit .235/.335/.422 in the PCL this year. Throughout his minor-league career, Olson has demonstrated good power and a willingness to draw walks. He’s also a 22-year-old with a 6-foot-5 frame, which suggests he may still have some untapped upside. But his underwhelming performance, defensive limitations and 24% strikeout rate don’t bode particularly well for his future in the show.

KATOH pegs Olson for 3.7 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 2.8 WAR by KATOH+, which integrates Baseball America’s rankings. To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Olson’s first six seasons in the major leagues.

Olson

To put some faces to Olson’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the newest Brewers prospect. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Olson’s performance this year and every Double-A season since 1991 in which a first baseman or corner outfielder recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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Projecting the First Wave of September Call-Ups

September call-ups are upon us. Now that the minor-league regular season has come to an end, players are getting called up left and right. Some of those players are organizational catchers and journeyman relievers*, but a few of the recent call-ups are prospects who appear to have promising futures in the Show.

*Editor’s note.

With the long weekend, I’ve fallen a bit behind on projecting the prospects who were called up over the past few days. In what follows, I attempt to make up for lost time by projecting several of the players who have recently gotten the call. In case you missed it, I projected Yoan Moncada last week. As usual, KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

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KATOH on the Cape: Projecting Cape Cod League Pitchers

Last Tuesday, I published a post examining the hitters in this year’s Cape Cod summer league through the lens of my KATOH projection system. Today, I’m back to look at the pitchers. As I did with minor-league players and college players, I deployed a series of probit regressions to see what stuck when it came to forecasting major-league performance for Cape League players. I used those results to generate an expected WAR total — in this case, through age 28. These projections are far from gospel: scouting the stat line is always dangerous, and it’s even more dangerous than usual at the college level, where the samples are small, the players are raw, and the quality of opposing pitching runs the gamut. Nonetheless, statistical performance is an often overlooked component of prospect evaluation, and the performers often go on to exceed expectations.

A couple of caveats. Due to the poor quality of publicly available historical summer-league data, these projections do not directly account for pitchers’ home-run rates, which is obviously less than ideal. Secondly, these projections take into account only what these players have done this summer. Ideally, they’d account for college stats and summer-league stats. I do plan to link these two data sets at some point, but, unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.

Below, you’ll find a few notes on performances whom I deemed noteworthy. Below that, you’ll find a giant table for all hitters who recorded at least 75 batters faced (BFs) in the Cape Cod League this year. The two rightmost columns refers to each prospect’s ranking on Baseball America’s Cape Cod top-30 list and Frankie Piliere’s top-150 list from D1 Baseball.

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The Comps for Tim Tebow Aren’t Encouraging

What a time to be alive. Not only is 29-year-old Tim Tebow attempting to launch a career as a baseball player, but he held a showcase in front of scouts from 28 teams — and actually managed to impress some of them. The ex-NFL quarterback put on a show in batting practice, which prompted some scouts to spew superlatives about his power tool. The rest of his game was underwhelming, however, including his performance against live pitching and his throwing arm.

When it comes to gauging Tebow’s talent, all we really have is this showcase and the scouting grades that came out of it. He hasn’t played baseball since high school, so we have exactly zero statistical data to use. The logical conclusion seems to be that he isn’t very good. Sure, Tebow was something of a prospect in high school, but a tiny fraction of high-school baseball prospects succeed in the pros, and that’s without having sat out a dozen years.

The responsible thing to do would be to recognize that this is little more than a publicity stunt and that Tebow will probably bust. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, I decided to play around with the shred of data we do have and infer what it might mean for Tebow’s future.

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KATOH on the Cape: Projecting Cape Cod League Hitters

The college baseball season wrapped up in June when Coastal Carolina defeated Arizona in the College World Series, but most of the top college players’ seasons don’t end when their team’s season does. Players with dreams of going pro often spend the summer months playing in collegiate summer leagues to gain extra reps and exposure. Teams in these leagues are composed entirely of college players, and — unlike at the college level — hitters use wooden bats instead of metal ones.

The most well known of these leagues is the Cape Cod Baseball League, which aptly takes place along Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Cape attracts most of the best college players, and many of today’s stars spent their college summers playing there. Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Mark Teixeira are just a few notable alumni.

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Projecting Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves Cornerstone

Last night, Dansby Swanson, 2015’s first overall pick, debuted for the Atlanta Braves. After destroying High-A pitching to the tune of .333/.441/.562 in April, Swanson spent 84 games at the Double-A level. He hit a less exciting, but still respectable .261/.342/.411 at the latter stop.

During his brief stay in the minors, Swanson didn’t stand out in any particular area offensively, but was better than average across the board. He posted a healthy 11% walk rate this season, a .151 ISO, and made enough contact (recording an 18% strikeout rate) for it not to be a concern. Even his 13 steals indicate a guy who’s fast, if not exceptionally fast.

Swanson is a good hitter, but his bat alone doesn’t make him a particularly exciting prospect. What really sets him apart is that he’s a good hitter who also happens to play a mean shortstop. Eric Longenhagen noted yesterday that he thinks Swanson will be a plus defender at short. The data support that observation. In just 105 minor-league games at short this year, he’s been a +19 defender according to Clay Davenport’s model.

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Projecting Astros Call-Up Teoscar Hernandez

Teoscar Hernandez has always possessed an enticing combination of power and speed. His primary flaw, however, has been his inability to make contact. In 2014, he belted 21 homers and stole 33 bags, but struck out 28% of the time. Last year, he posted 17 homers and 33 steals with a 24% strikeout rate. The end result was a .219/.275/.362 batting line. More often than not, hitters who strike out that frequently don’t carry their success over to the big leagues, and it wasn’t at all clear that Hernandez was ever going to make enough contact to make it work.

But a funny thing started happening this year: Hernandez has seemingly learned how to avoid the strikeout. He opened the year at the Double-A level, where he hit .305/.384/.437 with a 17% strikeout rate. Following a promotion to Triple-A, he slashed .313/.365/.500 with a 16% strikeout clip. Despite the added contact, he still managed 10 homers in just over 100 games — plus one more in Houston on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »


Projecting Yankees Call-Ups Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin

Just hours after Alex Rodriguez walked off the field following his final game (in pinstripes, at least), the Yankees made the following string of transactions.

Capture

And just hours after making those transactions, both Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin had already homered in the big leagues. Out with the old, in with the new.

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Projecting Cardinals Call-Up Luke Weaver

Earlier this week, the Cardinals called up a promising young arm in Alex Reyes, who’s already enjoyed some success out of St. Louis’ bullpen. Another promising young arm is set to debut for the Cardinals tomorrow, as 22-year-old Luke Weaver will get the start against Cubs. What should we expect from him?

One thing we know for certain is that Weaver was undeniably excellent in the minors this year. In 13 starts this year — most of them at Double-A — he pitched to a sparkling 1.30 ERA and 2.11 FIP. He struck out an impressive 28% of opposing batters, while walking fewer than 4%, which is equally impressive. It wasn’t the first time he tasted success either, as he pitched well last season in High-A, albeit with a more underwhelming 21% strikeout rate.
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Projecting Cardinals Call-Up Alex Reyes

The St. Louis Cardinals recalled top prospect Alex Reyes yesterday and, a few hours later, the hard-throwing right-hander recorded his major-league debut, striking out one in a clean inning of relief work (box).

The book on Reyes is that his stuff is off the charts, but his control and command leave something to be desired. His numbers paint this picture vividly. His top-notch stuff enables him to miss a lot of bats, resulting in nearly unmatched strikeout rates the past couple of years. Meanwhile, his lackluster command has resulted in a concerning number of walks.

All else being equal, you’d prefer to have a pitcher that doesn’t have iffy command and an ugly walk rate. But all else isn’t equal with Reyes. His ability to generate strikeouts, especially at such a young age, is a huge point in his favor. I yanked some of those words from my recent Tyler Glasnow piece, but I’m recycling them here since they’re equally applicable to Reyes.

My KATOH projection system adores Reyes. It projects him for 7.6 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 12.6 WAR by the method that integrates Baseball America’s rankings. Reyes placed 18th and seventh overall, respectively, on KATOH’s recent top-100 lists. Among pitchers, though, he was third and first. KATOH’s lists tend to be relatively hitter-heavy — likely due to some combination of pitchers’ attrition rates and the fact that KATOH does not directly quantify “stuff.” But in terms of pitching prospects, scouting-infused KATOH thinks Reyes is the best one on the planet.

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