Disappointing 2011 Prospects: NL West

This is the final post in a six part series that took a look at disappointing seasons from Top 10 prospects that entered 2011 with a lot of hype and promise. You can read the other posts here: AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL Central.

Arizona Diamondbacks
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Marc Krauss, OF

I had a hard time deciding who was a bigger disappointment between Krauss and Broxton. Ultimately, Krauss was the choice, though, because he’s older and has fewer tools. The 23-year-old outfielder hit just .242/.340/.439 in 433 at-bats. After two years of unsustainably high BABIPs (especially for someone with limited foot speed), his BABIP settled around average at .299. His strikeout rate remains high at 24.4 K%. On the plus side, his home run total dropped from 25 to 16 but counting stats can be quite unreliable in the minors and Krauss’ ISO rate slipped just slightly from .208 to .196. He also does a nice job of getting on base (12.7 BB%).

Colorado Rockies
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Tyler Matzek, LHP; Peter Tago, RHP

I’m going to go with both Matzek and Tago here as both have similar profiles: They were highly-ranked first-round draft picks out of high schools and both struggled mightily once they entered the Rockies organization. Matzek has a year of experience on Tago but his control deserted him for a good portion of 2011. After a decent but far from stellar 2010 season in low-A, Matzek was promoted to high-A to begin 2011 but he struggled with a walk rate of 12.55 BB/9 in 33.0 innings. He was better after a demotion to low-A but his walk rate was still 7.03 BB/9. When he does find the plate, though, Matzek can still get guys out, as witnessed by his strikeout rates of 10.09 in high-A and 10.41 K/9 in low-A.

Tago posted an ugly 6.11 FIP (7.07 ERA) in 90.1 innings in low-A. The right-hander had a tough time finding the plate on a consistent basis with a walk rate of 7.17 BB/9. Left-handed hitters batted .314 against him and he finished the year on a sour note. During his final three games (7.2 innings) he walked 13 batters and struck out just three. Colorado may want to be a little less aggressive with its prep pitchers – even those with impressive pedigree.

Los Angeles Dodgers
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Jerry Sands, OF/1B

Sands exploded onto the prospect landscape with a productive 2010 season but 2011 was a different story. Although he reached the Majors for the first time in his career, it became fairly apparent that his ’10 output was a product of his environment. After spending time in The Show and hitting just .253/.338/.389 in 198 at-bats. it became somewhat apparent that he’s more of a bench or part-time player rather than the guy that hit 35 homers between low-A and double-A a year ago. In limited at-bats, his wOBA was .456 against left-handed pitchers but just .267 against right-handers. He’s also not going to provide much value with the glove.

San Diego Padres
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Donavan Tate, OF

Life as a top-ranked Padres prospect is dangerous. Just look at the long list of failed top prospects and burned-out former No. 1 draft picks. Tate’s season was disrupted by injuries for the third straight year in 2011. In those three years, he has just 236 at-bats. He finally reached full-season ball in ’11 but had just 19 at-bats there. The outfielder is still very raw and now has a reputation for being brittle (broken jaw, knee, concussion, and shoulder). Even worse, he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a “recreational” drug (for the second time). The third overall pick of the 2009 draft, the two guys taken in front of him were Stephen Strasburg (Washington) and Dustin Ackley (Seattle). That’s a big drop off after those two.

San Francisco Giants
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Charlie Culberson

Culberson had a very promising 2010 in which he hit 16 homers, stole 25 bases and batted .292. His numbers took a pretty big dive in ’11 with a triple-slash line of .259/.293/.382 in 553 at-bats. His power output dropped from .165 to .123 ISO and his already-low walk rate dropped from 6.0 to 3.7 BB%. Culberson also strikes out too much (22.0 K%) for a guy with modest power. He’s looking more and more like a utility player at best. He’s made strides on the defensive side of his game but he’s still on the wrong side of average.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

25 Responses to “Disappointing 2011 Prospects: NL West”

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  1. schlomsd says:

    Wasn’t Simon Castro a bigger disappointment for the Padres?

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  2. Alex says:

    Way to only use statistics, and flawed ones for minor leaguers, to discuss these prospects. If you knew what you were talking about, Marc, you’d talk about Matzek’s fastball and how it basically lost it’s velocity. In my opinion, anybody could look at a stats page and list reasons why a prospect struggled. Not a fan of this article.

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    • JSprech says:

      I don’t agree with the rude/negative tone on your response to the article, but I do agree with your basic idea. I think a better (and more interesting) focus for looking at ‘disappointing prospects’ would be to try to statistically answer WHY their counting numbers were disappointing. As you can say, “any(one) can look at a stats page…,” Fangraphs articles should strive for statistical analysis, not statistical regurgitation… just my 2 cents.

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    • Matzek was hitting 97mph in August

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    • GiantHusker says:

      I was also disappointed with this article. Knowing virtually nothing about most teams prospects, I was waiting for the Giants turn. I was expecting analysis of more than just one prospect.
      If I’d known that only one was to be analyzed, I would have expected something more than just a few stats, especially stats like HR’s and BA.

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  3. Bernard Arnault says:

    Jerry Sands? Withrow or Miller would have been better choices. So Jerry Sands is a disappointment because he got called up to the MLB and struggled? If you look at his time after Sept. call ups he triple slashed .342/.415/.493. This in due part of slight modifications in his stance which has evidently worked. Wait til Jerry at least plays a full season before you start labeling him a disappointment.

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    • Ben says:

      Yeah, Sands fixed a major hitch in his swing and I expect him to really thrive next season.

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    • Yeah, Sands doesn’t belong on this list. Along with the change in his swing, he still showed the ability to get on base in the majors. A .338 OBP from a rookie is noting to scoff at.

      And I highly doubt Sands was aided by the environment of the pitcher-friendly Midwest League in 2010. He was a tad old for the league, but still had solid success in the Southern League.

      Ethan Martin should be the clear choice for the Dodger representative on this list.

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    • Ivdown says:

      Wow, I’m amazed that Sands was chosen. Sure he didn’t hit like Brett Lawrie or anything, but his september was pretty great. I was fully expecting someone like Ethan Martin or Chris Withrow or someone else like that, not someone who’s had MLB success as a nearly average hitter up there.

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  4. Marc Hulet says:

    Sure diminished velocity is important with Matzek but I would argue that the control issues trumps that. A lefty can survive diminished and/or below-average velocity but massive control issues will ruin your career pretty much without fail. I’m not sure how rate stats for prospects are flawed… especially for walk and strikeout rates…

    As for Sands, I chose him because there were a lot of hopes for him after his 2010 season, much of which was unreasonable. Miller got hurt, so I don’t hold that against him as much. And Withrow’s season really wasn’t that bad.

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    • Resolution says:

      Matzek definitely struggled but after returning to the team from spending time with his old pitching coach, he was much improved. Next year will be an interesting one for him…

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    • Bernard Arnault says:

      Aaron Miller is 24 in A ball. I doubt he amounts to much going forward.

      Jerry Sands hit .278/.344/.586 in AAA, granted he plays in the PCL, his numbers were better than his numbers in AA. He had a higher ISO, lower BABIP, and a comparable wOBA and BB:K rate. If you were expecting him to hit .330/.415/.620 then maybe he was a disappointment.

      In his stint with the pro club he demonstrated a double digit walk rate, a great outfield arm/defensive abilities, and plus opposite power. After working on his swing, he showed why he was highly regarded in the Dodger organization. His 61 games and his .253/.338/.389 line (.9 war) do not simply yield disappointment…In fact, after being called up, Sands illustrated progression which is a positive factor moving forward. Say Sands played this way the entire season, he would be worth 2.3 wins above replacement. This in what many believe was growing pains. Heck I’d take a 23 year old 2.3 win player at 400k any day.

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      • BobNA says:

        Anyone who watched Jerry Sands after he was called up the second time would not put him on this list. Fixed the hole in his swing and really looked confident and comfortable which he did not before.

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  5. Jeff says:

    Matzek’s biggest problem was the Rockies changed his mechanics, which likewise hurt his velocity and his control. He went back to his old High School pitching coach and re-worked them, and at the end of the season, was looking closer to what he did when he debuted. While it is a small sample, he has gone through a complete transformation as a pitcher from this year ’till now. There isn’t a guarentee he will be better or worse, but I don’t think anyone really knows how he’ll turn out.

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  6. Will says:

    Not sure why you think Sands disappointed this season. This is pretty much what i thought one could expect from a guy who had no experience above AA before this season. His splits are definitely something to pay attention to but the sampling remains pretty small.

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  7. A good point on the Rockies’ aggressiveness with prep pitchers. I believe Tago still has good stuff, but he was just outmatched debuting in the offense-heavy Sally League. He probably should have been held back to Short Season. He has time – he was one of the youngest players in the SAL last year.

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  8. Domenic says:

    I’m not sure that I’d consider Tate’s performance a disappointment.

    The injuries and alleged behavioral issues are certainly disconcerting, but he’s still only 21 and he did hit .288/.410/.411 between Low-A and High-A, in an admittedly small sample size. Still, for a player that’s regarded as more of an athlete than a ballplayer, you have to be encouraged by a 16.3% walk rate and 73% stolen base rate (which isn’t great, but it’s solid for a player of his background).

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  9. jim says:

    interesting that you completely forget to mention matzek’s month off for re-training with marshall, and his improvements upon return

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  10. Tyler Matzek had serious control issues in 2010 so the Rockies only attempted to change his mechanics, apparently, because of that, heading into 2011. I read they thought his delivery may be too difficult to repeat effectively.

    He moved up in competition and had new mechanics and was awful.

    He fixes his mechanics and shows great mental toughness in bouncing back. By the end of the season he went on a great six-game run where he looked like a star talent again.

    2012 will likely be very revealing as to whether he has the necessary control to allow his stuff to play up and advance through the system.

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  11. Chair says:

    While Sand’s lack of MLB power is a bit concerning, it’s way too early to say it doesn’t exist. Check out his minor league numbers, the guy has put up ISOs of:

    .337 (R) (2009)
    .313 (A) (2010)
    .308 (AAA) (2011)
    .259 (AA) (2010)
    .250 (A) 2009
    .233 (R) 2008

    To act like his power is a “product of his environment” is ignorant. His BB%, K% and defense were all good during his MLB callups. He just has to bring up his power and show that he can damage right handers as well as left.

    Many people thought Sands might spend the entire year at AAA. The Dodgers rushed him to MLB in May, he predictably was not ready. Perhaps Sands did not follow up his 2010 with another eye opening season, but he was hardly a disappointment.

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  12. Chair says:

    Honestly, if Sands belongs on this list, then you should be scrambling to get Belt on the list as well.

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  13. Chair says:

    Also Rizzo

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  14. Lnickerson88 says:

    Jerry Sands is amazing. He was disappointing in his first call-up, yes. But that was before he went to AAA and shortened his swing. He was well above replacement level in September, helping the dodgers to a record way over .500 for the month. And his glove is great. His arm is even better. Statistical defensive metrics aren’t perfect and if they are saying his defense isn’t solid, they’re wrong.

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  15. baron says:

    Lol. This whole series is basically worthless. Aside form the laughable Sands “analysis,” how is there not even a mention of Matzek’s work with his high school coach mid year and the obvious improvements afterward? I hate to be so harsh but Hulet’s work is oddly retrograde and out of step with the quality of the other work on Fangraphs.

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