Called Up: Pederson, Franco, Pompey, Norris & Finnegan

Check out some recent versions of this series with Dilson Herrera, Jorge Soler and Rusney Castillo (though he’s still in the minors). I made the cutoff for a write-up a 50 Future Value, meaning a projected peak role of 8th/9th inning reliever, #4 starter or low-end everyday player. Take a look at recent prospect lists for the Rangers or Rockies to get a better idea of the distinction between 45 and 50 FV. The last of the 50 FV prospects is generally around the 150th best prospect in the game.


Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Hit: 45/55, Game Power: 45/55, Raw Power: 60/60, Run: 55/50, Field: 50/50+, Throw: 50/50+

Using the process from the org prospect list format, the triple slash line upside for Pederson is .280/.370/.460. This is taking the projected tools above, converting them into stats (i.e. 55 bat converts to .270s batting average), then rounding up a bit (how much for each tool depends on the player) to account for reasonable “upside” rather than “projected output” (and not adjust for park). In the broadest sense, every position player’s upside is Mike Trout, so I’m trying to be illustrative here rather than empirically correct.

Pederson signed for $600,000 in the 11th round of the 2010 draft from a Northern California high school; he wasn’t a consensus prospect and wasn’t seen as having much upside, but flashed average tools and good feel for the game.  He spent 2010 and basically all of 2011 in short-season or extended spring training, except for a disastrous 50 at-bats in Low-A.  Something clicked in 2012 and the Dodgers sent him straight to High-A as a 20 year old, where he became a top 100 type prospect.  He raked again in AA in 2013 then again this year at AAA with only the Dodgers outfield surplus keeping him in AAA this long.

Pederson has average to above average tools across the board, with only his raw power showing plus, though that’s with effort in batting practice. Some scouts think the bat could be plus, but Pederson can get pull-happy (as during the above BP video with Yasiel Puig egging him on) and lose contact ability, to swing from his shoes and try to get to all of his power. His offensive projection will come down to what kind of hitter he wants to be–the 55 future hit/power tools is a little conservative and converts to .270s and 20 homers–but his controlled aggressive approach should lead to high OBPs either way. Pederson has beat expectation at every level and is one of the rare players that can make a lot of contact with a high effort swing, so it could be dumb to hedge my offensive projections.

Pederson is an above-average runner with a solid-average arm that can play all three outfield positions and has the instincts to get the most out of his speed on defense and on the base paths. I think he fits best long-term in an outfield corner but the best-case scenario, which at least one scout I talked to today has as his projection for Pederson, is a 60 hit and 60 power center fielder along the lines of Jim Edmonds. In the short-term, the thing to watch will be how much contact he makes against tough lefties.

 


Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

Hit: 40/50, Game Power: 50/60, Raw Power: 60/60, Run: 30/30, Field: 40/45+, Throw: 60/60

Using the process from the org prospect list format, the triple slash line upside for Franco is .270/.335/.460. This is taking the projected tools above, converting them into stats (i.e. 55 bat converts to .270s batting average), then rounding up a bit (how much for each tool depends on the player) to account for reasonable “upside” rather than “projected output” (and not adjust for park). In the broadest sense, every position player’s upside is Mike Trout, so I’m trying to be illustrative here rather than empirically correct.

Franco signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican in January 2010 and became more physical after signing, turning into a real prospect. His breakout was last year between High-A and AA when he went from a high contact hitter with some raw power to a monster hitting over .300 with 30 homers between two levels. Franco is limited physically by his slow feet and will never be more than fringy at third base, but has the plus arm and good hands to figure out a way to make it work over there. His raw power is plus and should play up in Philly’s stadium, but Franco is another case like Pederson where the ultimate projection comes down to what kind of hitter he wants to be.

Franco has the plus bat control and bat speed to square up a lot of pitches and he hasn’t struck out in over 15% of his plate appearances at any full-season level. That said, his plate discipline is a little suspect and his swing can get out of control at times. There’s always a question as to whether this type of hitter will just keep succeeding in the big leagues or be forced to make some adjustments when reaching for that curveball turns from a bloop hit into a swinging strikeout a couple too many times. The tools are here for a 50+ bat with 60 power, which would fit everyday at third base or first base, though there may be a bit of an adjustment period: AAA pitchers gave Franco much more trouble this year than High-A and AA pitchers did last year, but he’s been hot as of late.

 


Dalton Pompey, CF, Toronto Blue Jays

Hit: 40/45+, Game Power: 35/40, Raw Power: 40/45, Run: 60/60, Field: 55/60, Throw: 45/45

Using the process from the org prospect list format, the triple slash line upside for Pompey is .265/.345/.400. This is taking the projected tools above, converting them into stats (i.e. 55 bat converts to .270s batting average), then rounding up a bit (how much for each tool depends on the player) to account for reasonable “upside” rather than “projected output” (and not adjust for park).  In the broadest sense, every position player’s upside is Mike Trout, so I’m trying to be illustrative here rather than empirically correct.

Pompey is a great example of players that are young for their high school class having hidden upside: he didn’t turn 18 until 6 months after he was drafted in 16th round by the Jays in 2010 ($150,000 bonus out of Canadian high school). Pompey has taken a huge step forward this year, jumping all the way from High-A to the big leagues in his age 21 season, though scouts aren’t as enthusiastic as Pompey’s stat line and aggressive promotions suggest they should be.

Pompey is a plus runner with a very good defensive instincts that should make him an above average defensive center fielder in short order, though reviews on his arm differ. Power isn’t a part of his game and scouts aren’t bullish on the bat, with ordinary bat speed and bat control, though Pompey has good walk and strikeout rates this year against older competition. He has under 200 plate appearances above A-Ball, has a bigger stride/swing than most lead-off types and his dead hand load gives him some timing issues against advanced pitching. Pompey has hit his way to the big leagues, he offers speed and defense immediately and that could help prop up his batting average in the short-term, but this is a little premature.

 


Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 55/60, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50+

Norris was a well-known prospect coming out of a Tennessee high school, both for his above-average stuff dating back to his sophomore year of high school, but also his troublesome delivery. He slipped to the second round in 2011, but the Jays scooped him up at the 74th overall pick with a $2 million bonus. Norris took the Jays development staff a couple years to clean everything up and unlock his athleticism: Like Pompey, Norris shot from High-A to the big leagues in his age 21 season. The above video is from one of Norris’ weaker starts earlier this season, but the scouts I talked to really like his upside.

Norris sits 91-95 mph with occasional life and a hard, plus 74-76 mph curveball that’s really improved the last couple seasons from a softer version.  Norris also adds a 83-85 mph slider that flashes above average with clearly differentiated shape from his curve, along with a mid-80’s changeup that’s average to slightly above at times. He still isn’t perfectly online, he can elevate at times when he locks his landing knee and these things lead to a flatter fastball and giving up more hard contact. That said, he’s athletic enough to make all of this work and, when it’s right, the stuff is electric. There’s 2/3 starter upside and Norris now has the command to get there much faster than many would’ve guessed before this season.

 


Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals

Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+

Finnegan was one of the tougher evaluations in this past June’s draft class. The TCU ace appeared to be an anomaly: He had a high effort delivery from a small frame (5’11/185) but he also had advanced command and no injury history. Finnegan was up to 98 mph last summer and regularly up to 96 mph this spring, drawing Scott Kazmir and Billy Wagner comparisons from scouts.

Then, he missed multiple starts down the stretch with a stiff shoulder that threw the whole evaluation into question. Finnegan looked fine in abbreviated looks before the draft and went 17th overall to the Royals, whereas he had top 10 rumors around him before the shoulder tightness. It’s still not clear if he’s a mid-rotation starter or closer long-term, but he should be a nice bullpen piece for the Royals down the stretch this year. Finnegan has the same 2/3 starter upside as Norris if everything comes back, but scouts will wait until at least halfway into next year to revise their reports given the new durability questions.




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Kiley McDaniel has worked in the scouting departments of the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates and has written for ESPN, among other outlets. Follow him on twitter for real-time thoughts on the players he’s seeing and hacky attempts at humor.


7 Responses to “Called Up: Pederson, Franco, Pompey, Norris & Finnegan”

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  1. Roger says:

    Is Rajai Davis a fair comparison for Pompey? Davis is a career .270/.318/.382 hitter who’s bounced between bench and leadoff roles over his career, and that’s the kind of vibe I get about Pompey’s middle ground outcome: ceiling of a solid leadoff hitter, floor of a bench player, middle ground in the fringe of those two.

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    • Jonathan Sher says:

      No he is not. Davis is a below average defender (despite his speed) and that along with below-average run production has made him a marginal MLB player. He simply can’t play center field, he is below average as a defender as a corner outfielder.

      Pompey should be a plus defender, even in center field, and that alone gives him more upside than Davis. If he delivers league average run production as a plus defender in center field, he has a much better chance to stick as a regular.

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  2. Love You, Kiley says:

    NM

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  3. johnq says:

    I feel like JD Drew is a pretty fair upside for Joc Pederson.

    Great track record of plate discipline. Above average skills across the board without anything else truly exceptional.

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    • Spit Ball says:

      Ethier or Drew both sound like fair comparisons. Keep an eye on his defense. Jay Bruce also shares some similarities to what he could be. Who knows maybe he goes all “Donnie Baseball” for a hot minute if he can cut back on the K’s.

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  4. Spit Ball says:

    Norris looks good from that. You can see his command is better when his arm action quickly follows his landing foot. That’s definitely what causes the straight leg at times.

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  5. Stephen says:

    Norris didn’t throw across his body in high school so it appears that the Jays took the unusual step of altering someone’s delivery to throw across his body. It seems to have worked so good for them.

    I’m a big fan of the pitching profile they go after in the draft. From Stroman to Sanchez, Norris, Syndegaard and Beede, they’ve gone after above average athletes with fluid arm actions.

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