Wily Peralta, Alex Liddi, David Cooper: Mining the Minors

In the hours after yesterday’s Mining the Minors column was posted, the Red Sox promoted Ryan Lavarnway. The 24-year-old catcher got his due in this space three weeks ago for mashing baseballs all year long. At the time of that write-up, I didn’t see an easy fit for him in Boston until September roster expansion, but with Kevin Youkilis hitting the DL and David Ortiz battling a heel issue, Lavarnway got the call a couple weeks earlier than expected. Considering he’s known more for his stick (30 HRs this year) than his glove, he’s likely to see some time at designated hitter in addition to any opportunities behind the plate. As a savvy add in leagues that require a second starting catcher, Lavarnway is worth a look. My colleague Erik Hahmann will have more in just a bit, so check back here shortly.

Until then, though, here’s a trio players who might soon be up and contributing.

This column offers a take on formerly-elite prospects, lesser-known farmhands and veteran minor leaguers who are on the verge of getting a shot — all with a nod to their fantasy relevance and impact, specifically for this season. To help owners, I’ll include a player’s Talent Rating; but just as important is the Opportunity Rating, which points out the likelihood that a player will make his way to the majors during the year.

Wily Peralta, SP
Organization: Brewers
Age: 22
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: 11-7 W-L; 3.32 ERA; 1.24 WHIP; 134:49 K:BB over 132 2/3 IPs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 9
Talent Rating: 7
Obstacle(s): Limited experience at Triple-A

Working in just his second season as a full-time starting pitcher, the Dominican right-hander has put together a fantastic year, emerging as arguably the Brewers’ top prospect (aside from their top two picks in the 2011 draft). Recently promoted to Triple-A, Peralta has a sparkling 17:1 K:BB ratio over his first two starts (13 IPs) at Nashville, making him a candidate to start one of the games in Monday’s doubleheader. Regular fifth starter Chris Narveson, on the DL with a finger laceration, is expected to throw a bullpen session Saturday, and if he isn’t ready to come off the DL in time for Monday’s games, the Brewers will need a replacement. Peralta makes as much sense as anyone, but even if he’s not chosen for the spot start, there’s a good chance he’ll be up soon enough to pitch in a bullpen role as Milwaukee continues it’s playoff push. Another name to keep an eye on as a possible starter for Monday: Michael Fiers, a 26-year-old righty who’s been used as both a reliever and starter in his pro career and is currently 5-0 with a 1.73 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 in 6 starts for Nashville.

ETA: If Peralta is not called up to start Monday, the Brewers would still be wise to get him on the 25-man roster by the end of August so he’s eligible for the postseason.

Alex Liddi, 3B
Organization: Mariners
Age: 23
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: .258 BA; .832 OPS; 27 HRs; 95 RBIs; 112 runs; 150:55 K:BB over 485 ABs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 8
Talent Rating: 7
Obstacle(s): Strikeout rate; questionable defense at hot corner

Born in San Remo, Italy, Liddi is trying to become the first Italian native in nearly 50 years to make it to the majors, and at the rate he’s going, he’ll check that off his To Do list before this season is out. The righty-swinging Liddi, who was signed back in 2005, is living it up in the very hitter-friendly PCL, ranking third in Triple-A in HRs (27) and RBIs (95), and his 112 runs lead the minors and established a new Tacoma Rainiers record. Now for the but. Liddi also ranks among minor-league leaders in whiffs, with a career-high 150. He owns a 28% K rate in his career, which would more than likely only get worse against big-league pitchers. And as far as his defense goes, some think he may be a better fit at first base given his questionable ability to handle third. There’s also the fact that Seattle just traded for Francisco Martinez, who may wind up being the M’s long-term answer at the hot corner, but in the meantime, Liddi deserves a shot to see what he can do. Because, hey, Kyle Seager‘s .456 OPS isn’t cutting it.

ETA: For the Mariners’ sake, any day now would be a good idea, but certainly in September, Liddi will get a chance, probably in a near-everyday role.

David Cooper, 1B/DH
Organization: Blue Jays
Age: 24
Current Level: Triple-A
Statistics: .371 BA; .999 OPS; 9 HRs; 87 RBIs; 70 runs; 36:57 K:BB over 399 ABs
40-man roster: Yes
Opportunity Rating: 6
Talent Rating: 7
Obstacle(s): Blue Jays are already crowded at 1B/DH; lacks power expected of traditional first baseman

As a first-rounder in 2008, Cooper fell short of expectations prior to 2011, but he’s enjoyed a breakout campaign at Triple-A this year. Again, the PCL caveat comes into play, but he’s leading all minor leaguers in OBP (.445), and ranks first in batting average (.371) among players still in the minors. The power (9 HRs) is below-average for a first baseman — though he did hit 20 bombs last year — but Cooper has true gap power, and his 46 doubles are more than any major leaguer. He actually debuted with Toronto earlier this year, and while he went just 4-for-33, he knocked one out of the park and had a nice 5:5 K:BB ratio, proving his plate discipline can translate to the bigs. The profile here is rather similar to that of another lefty-hitting Blue Jays first baseman who was known for his high batting average, an elite eye and good extra-base hit ability — fella by the name of John Olerud. Given all the power hitters in Toronto’s lineup (Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia), it would seem the team could afford to employ a hitter like Cooper at first to balance things out. Of course, the org is still giving regular time to Edwin Encarnacion, who is useless defensively and streaky as all heck with the bat. He does have a $3.5 million team option for 2012, but would it be such a bad idea to see if Cooper could handle first base, moving Lind back to DH and thus putting an end to the E-5 Era once and for all?

ETA: There’s no reason for the Jays not to give him a legitimate look come September.

***

If you have any suggestions for minor leaguers that you would like to see tracked, discussed and evaluated in Mining the Minors, feel free to post suggestions in the comments section. I’ll do my best to get to as many as I can.




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Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11


11 Responses to “Wily Peralta, Alex Liddi, David Cooper: Mining the Minors”

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  1. michael says:

    Jason,

    You are seriously discounting the offensive production of Edwin. He has been hitting like a machine since June. I read somewhere in this site he was something like the 6th most valuable player in the AL during this stretch and pulled his WAR from -1.1 to 1.2. That is impressive work. About a week after Dave Cameron wrote an article condemning Edwin he turned it around. Seriously, do some homework – he’s been impressive – definitely don’t see Cooper as a viable replacement for EE!

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Hey Michael,

      Thanks for checking in. I did notice that Encarnacion has been hot the past two months, but frankly, he’s done this same thing. Every. Single. Year. He looks absolutely lost at the dish one month, then hits baseballs all over the yard the next. That’s why I actually mentioned how streaky he is. Could he cut it as a full-time DH for the Jays next year? Yeah, probably, because the rest of the lineup is strong, so it could survive his three or four of his funks. But I just think Toronto has enough of those all-or-nothing types (Arencibia, Lind), so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see what Coop could do on a semi-regular basis over the final month (even if it’s in a lefty-righty platoon with EE and Lind). That way, they could figure out if EE is worth the team option next year, or if they can just replace him at a fraction of the cost.

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  2. chri521 says:

    Hi Jason,

    Any re-thoughts on the Hank Conger and Trout recalls? I know you’ve profiled them before but how do you think SuperCatcherManager Scioscia juggles his lineup going forward? These kids have got to play if they’re getting the call now right?

    Chris

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    • Jason Catania says:

      Hey chri521:

      Had seen the Conger recall, and thanks for the heads-up on Trout reportedly getting called up again, which I hadn’t seen until your mention. Seems like Trout will help replace Vernon Wells, who may hit the DL, so he should get some regular PT at least for the time being. And by the time Wells is back, the Angels may be too far out of contention, so Trout could continue to see real action.

      As for Conger: Look, I think he should’ve been playing catcher regularly for them all season long, even just splitting time with Mathis would’ve been beneficial to his development — and better than anything the Angels were getting from the position. But when it comes to Scioscia and his catchers, I don’t pretend to predict anything.

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  3. BTC says:

    There is no doubting that Edwin is streaky, as you stated. But if we’re going to give any legitimate value to WAR (1.5 for him, currently), should we discount how and when that production occurs?

    Granted, I would think logic would state if you are a middle-of-the-road team like Toronto, Cinci, Pittsburgh, etc. that you would prefer that production in the beginning of the season in order to ‘be in the race’ so that you can make the proper moves to remain in the race or advance…but we’re not really placing metrical value on that, are we?

    A 1.5 WAR is a 1.5 WAR — and I highly doubt David Cooper will ever put up a WAR like that in his career. We’re talking about league average at best. If nothing else, outside of Edwin’s massive funks, he’s also one of those guys that can potentially carry a team for a few weeks and there is some tremendous value in that. Maybe not to the Blue Jays at this point in the season, but there is value nonetheless.

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    • Jason Catania says:

      BTC:

      There are two things to point out here.

      1) 1.5 WAR is really not all that good. I wouldn’t be citing that as evidence in favor of Encarnacion. Heck, Lyle Overbay’s WARs the past three seasons with the Blue Jays were 1.8, 2.2 and 1.4 — and I don’t think anyone liked Overbay much.

      2) Cooper doesn’t have to do much to manage a 1.5 WAR season. Basically, by saying he won’t ever do this means you’re betting that he’ll never be given any shot to be a regular (say, 400 ABs) in the bigs. Now, that may be the case, but I think he has a decent chance to do that at some point. And if that comes to fruition, it’s not all that crazy at all to expect he could post a 2 or even 3 WAR campaign. Again, not saying that would be all that great, especially for a 1B, but I think the 1.5 WAR standard is a little low.

      To be clear, I never said Encarnacion had no value. But his streakiness makes him one of the most frustrating players in baseball, and considering his age, it’s not all that likely he finally puts everything together and becomes a long-term answer for the Jays. Hence why it would make some sense to see what Cooper can do for a month.

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  4. Steve says:

    I think pointing to Edwin’s up and down season as “streaky” is just flat wrong. The production shifts have come quite distinctly from the difference between when he is playing 3B and when he gets to play DH. His hot streak coincided with his permanent move to DH, but the numbers were already showing a good sized split. Before June he had put up over an .850 OPS when hitting from the DH position or 1b, however he put up a .678 OPS when playing 3b. It was just under a couple hundred at-bats, but the drastic splits seem to make more sense than simply variance.

    E5 has been freed of worrying about being E5 and has been living up to his potential ever since. He even has a 15:22 K:BB ratio since the All-Star break. Plate discipline like that points more to break-out than a “Francour” hot steak…

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    • mattinm says:

      Correlation does not equal causation.

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      • Jason Catania says:

        This is interesting, mainly b/c usually we hear about this going the other way — players hit worse when they’re inhabiting the DH role compared to playing in the field. I still could see a couple seasons of Encarnacion, if given no-questions-asked 500 ABs, where he might hit 20-25 HRs and do enough damage to help a team as a DH. But I sure wouldn’t feel comfy doing as much with my team, considering what we’ve seen from EE so far.

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  5. Anders says:

    At what point do we consider Cooper’s ~.390 avg on balls in play?

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  6. Marco says:

    Liddi has still some issues with his career 0.35 BB/K, .810 OPS and .941 Fielding%. Wonder how Francisco Martinez can be considered a future answer at 3B with his career 0.26 BB/K, .689 OPS and .924 Fielding%

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