Archive for Projections

The 2018 All-KATOH Team

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel published their top-100 list on Monday. Other outlets have released similar lists, as well, recently — outlets including Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, Keith Law, and MLB Pipeline. I submitted my own contribution yesterday with KATOH’s top-100 prospects. All of these lists attempt to accomplish the very same goal: both to identify and rank the best prospects. But KATOH goes about it in a very different way than the others. While most others rely heavily on scouting, KATOH focuses on statistical performance.

On the whole, there’s a good deal of agreement between KATOH and the more traditional rankings. Many of KATOH’s favorite prospects have also received praise from real-live human beings who’ve watched them play. Ronald Acuna, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Brent Honeywell, Michael Kopech, and Kyle Tucker all fall within this group. In general, there is a lot of agreement. However, there are other KATOH favorites who’ve received little public consideration from prospect analysts. The purpose of this article is to give these prospects a little bit of attention.

For each position, I’ve identified the player, among those excluded from all top-100 lists, who’s best acquitted by KATOH. These players have performed in the minors in a way that usually portends big-league success. Yet, for one reason or another, each has been overlooked by prospect evaluators.

Of course, the fact that these players missed every top-100 list suggests that their physical tools are probably underwhelming. That’s very important information! Often times, the outlook for players like this is much worse than their minor-league stats would lead you to believe. There’s a reason people in the industry always say “don’t scout the stat line.” Although KATOH scouts the stat line in an intuitive fashion, it still overlooks important inputs that can predict big-league success.

Still, the stat-line darlngs sometimes pan out. I performed this  exact same exercise last year, as well, and I’m proud to say there were some big successes. Rhys HoskinsJake Faria, Ben Gamel, Chad Green, and Brandon Nimmo have each blossomed into productive big leaguers just one year out. Zach Davies and Edwin Diaz also appeared in this space two years ago. Of course, others haven’t worked out so well. Clayton Blackburn, Dylan Cozens, Ramon Flores, and Garrett Stubbs: none of them were particularly useful major leaguers in 2017. There will be hits, and there will be misses, especially when you’re dealing with non-elite prospects.

*****

C – Jake Rogers, Detroit (Profile)

Why KATOH Loves Him
Rogers hit a respectable .261/.350/.467 across two levels of A-ball last year, pairing an 11% walk rate with encouraging power. Most impressive of all, however, is that he did so as a catcher — a position where good hitters are few and far between. Rogers isn’t just any catcher, either: Clay Davenport’s defensive numbers graded him out as elite. Elite defensive catchers who can also hit a little are exceptionally valuable.

Why Scouts Don’t (J.J Cooper)

He has a big leg kick to start his swing, and takes a ferocious cut with a pull-heavy approach. When his swing works, he has the power to deposit pitches in the left-field bleachers. When it doesn’t, he rolls over ground outs or hits a number of harmless pop outs. Evaluators generally see Rogers as a below-average hitter with a lot of swings and misses and average bat speed.

My Thoughts
Usually, KATOH’s catcher crushes are good hitters who are questionable behind the plate. Rogers is the exact opposite, as his offense is the questionable piece. Eric Longenhagen called him “best defensive catching prospect I’ve seen, a polished receiver and cat-like ball-blocker with a plus arm” over the summer. Even if Rogers’ A-ball numbers ultimately don’t translate, he could still be a solid regular given how little catchers hit. For example, Martin Maldonado defended his way to 1.1 WAR last year in spite of a 73 wRC+.

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2018 Top 100 KATOH Prospects


Below is KATOH’s 2018 top-100 prospect list. If you’re a regular FanGraphs reader, you likely know the drill by now. But in case you need a refresher, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for a player’s first six major-league seasons. It incorporates age, offensive performance, defensive performance, and other characteristics from the past two seasons. There are certainly drawbacks to scouting the stat line, but due to their objectivity, the projections can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated.

I have made a few updates this time around. KATOH now features:

  1. The batted-ball data (for both hitters and pitchers) available on our awesome leaderboards. Among other things, this helps KATOH differentiate between fluky and un-fluky high- and low-BABIP hitters.
  2. A greater reliance on recent data for the construction of the model and less dependence on data points from 10-plus years ago.
  3. Numbers from the Dominican Summer League, which was previously outside of KATOH’s scope

Astute readers might notice that this article does not include a top-100 for KATOH+, the version of KATOH that incorporates scouting grades in addition to the stats. Since Kiley and Eric are still working their way through the organizational lists, I don’t have up-to-date FV grades for every prospect. Rather than plugging in FV grades from a year ago (or more), I am holding off on KATOH+ for now.

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2018 FAN Projections!

The 2018 FAN Projection ballots are now open!

Before you can project any players, you’ll have to select the team you follow most closely towards the top of the screen. If you really don’t follow a team, just pick one. You’ll only have to do this once.

After you’ve selected a team, you can begin projecting players. There are nine categories of interest for pitchers and 10 categories for position players. Pick the values in the drop-down boxes closest to what you think the player will do in 2018. Hit the submit button and you’re done! If you made a mistake, you can always go back and change your selection at any time.

Please note that everything is a rate stat. You’re projecting 2B+3B, HR, SB, and Fielding as a measure of 150 games (basically a full season). The player’s previous stats are shown per 150 games in the projection ballot, too. This will make changing playing-time projections much easier, as you’ll only have to change the games played portion.

That’s really all there is to it. You can filter players by team or, if you go to the player pages, you can project players individually. If you want to see all the players you’ve projected, you can click on the “My Rankings” button, which will show you only what you specifically projected a player to do.

FAN Projections will show up on a player’s page after five ballots have been submitted for him.

If you do notice any issues, please let us know.


KATOH Projects Pittsburgh’s Return for Andrew McCutchen

The Giants have acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen in exchange for Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. Below are the KATOH projections for Pittsburgh’s newest prospects.

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KATOH Projects Pittsburgh’s Return for Gerrit Cole

The Astros have acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole (for real this time) from the Pirates in exchange for Michael Feliz, Joe Musgrove, and prospects Jason Martin and Colin Moran. Below are the KATOH projections for the latter two of those players.

Note that WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

*****

Colin Moran, 3B (Profile)
KATOH: 3.0 WAR
KATOH+: 2.8 WAR

The Marlins made Moran the sixth-overall pick back in 2013, but his stock has cratered since. His bat never developed the way scouts thought it would, culminating in a paltry .259/.329/.368 line in 2016. He showed signs of life last year, however, hitting .308/.373/.543 in his second crack at Triple-A. For the first time as a professional, he hit for power — largely by upping his fly-ball rate by 10 percentage points — while simultaneously cutting eight points off of his strikeout rate.

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KATOH Projects the Scott Alexander Return

The Dodgers, Royals, and White Sox swung a three-team, six-player trade yesterday involving relievers Scott Alexander, Luis Avilan, and Joakim Soria plus three prospects: Trevor Oaks, Erick Mejia and Jake Peter.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel have provided scouting reports for the prospects changing hands. Below are the KATOH projections for those same players. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

*****

Trevor Oaks, RHP, Kansas City (Profile)

KATOH: 3.4
KATOH+: 2.6

Oaks caught KATOH’s eye last year when he put up a 2.74 ERA with decent peripherals across 24 starts in the Dodgers system. An oblique injury effectively ended his 2017 season in July, but not before he recorded a 3.49 FIP and 21% strikeout rate in 84 Triple-A innings. Oaks turns 25 in March but has succeeded as a starter at the highest level of the minors.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Evan Longoria Trade

The Giants have acquired Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for major leaguer Denard Span, plus prospects Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook, and Stephen Woods.

Below are the KATOH projections for the prospects received by Tampa Bay. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system projects these prospects for a combined 2.4 WAR (2.2 by KATOH+) over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Christian Arroyo, IF (Profile)
KATOH: 1.5 WAR
KATOH+: 1.8 WAR

Arroyo missed a large chunk of 2017 due to multiple hand injuries and hit just .192/.244/.304 in 34 games with the Giants. Even without accounting for his small-sample big-league struggles, though, Arroyo’s track record doesn’t portend particularly great things. He hit a punchless .274/.316/.373 at Double-A in 2016 and his small-sample success at Triple-A last year was largely aided by his .427 BABIP. Arroyo’s youth and contact skills make him interesting, but he has very little power or speed and has already more or less moved off of shortstop.

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Projecting the 2017 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 2018 season on their new team’s active roster (or disabled list). Otherwise, they have to be offered back to their original team.

Since most of these players do not have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH. WAR figures represent projections for the first six years of a player’s major-league career. For a scouting companion to this post, read Eric Longenhagen’s analysis from earlier this afternoon.

Players listed in order of draft selection.

*****

1. Detroit Tigers
Victor Reyes, OF, 1.9 WAR (from D-backs)

Reyes has long been a KATOH darling. Look no further than his player page to see the articles in which he has been tagged.

KATOH has always believed in Reyes’s blend of youth, contact, and speed — a skill set he carried into Double-A last year. Reyes showed everything except for power as 22-year-old in Double-A last year. Given his 6-foot-3 frame, I wouldn’t be surprised if more power eventually shows up.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Giancarlo Stanton Trade

The Yankees have acquired reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins in exchange for Starlin Castro plus prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. A possible $30 million in cash would also be included in the event Stanton chooses not to opt out of his mega-contract following the 2020 season.

Below are the KATOH projections for the prospects received by Miami. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system projects these prospects for a combined 5.9 WAR (5.2 by KATOH+) over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Jorge Guzman, RHP (Profile)
KATOH: 3.3 WAR
KATOH+: 3.2 WAR

Acquired from the Astros last winter in the Brian McCann trade, Guzman dominated the New York-Penn League in 2017. He struck out a league-leading 33% of opposing batters this past season and walked just 7%. The end result was a 2.30 ERA across 13 starts. At 21 years old, Guzman wasn’t particularly young for short-season ball — especially for an international signee — but his performance was off the charts. As a result, KATOH has him as a top-150 prospect. Guzman is obviously several levels away from the majors, but there is a lot to like.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Dee Gordon Trade

At long last, the hot stove appears to be heating up. In something of a surprise move, the Mariners have swung a trade with the Marlins to acquire both (a) Dee Gordon, who will apparently play center field for Seattle, and (b) $1 million in international slot money. In exchange, the Marlins receive three lower-tier prospects: righties Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert, plus infielder Chris Torres.

Below are the KATOH projections for the players received by Miami. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system (both stats-only and KATOH+) projects this trio for 3.6 WAR over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Nick Neidert, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 2.2 WAR
KATOH+: 2.7 WAR

Seattle took Neidert in the second round out of high school back in 2015, and he promptly began mowing down low-minors hitters. Neidert opened 2017 as a 20-year-old in High-A, where he pitched excellently — his strikeout rate, walk rate, ERA, and xFIP were all top-five in the Cal League among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Neidert’s performance cratered following a late-season promotion to Double-A, but his body of work is impressive. He rarely walks anyone and has shown an ability to miss bats against much older competition.

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KATOH’s Guide to the 2017 Rule 5 Draft

The deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft was Tuesday, November 21st. This means that all Rule 5-eligible players who aren’t currently on a 40-man roster will be available in the draft on December 14th at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. 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 2014 or earlier, drafted out of high school in 2013 or earlier, or signed as an international free agent in August 2013 or earlier. But that’s just a rule of thumb, and 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 teams would have protected them — or traded them to a team interested 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 is possible I omitted a noteworthy player along the way. All players with at least 200 professional plate appearances or batters faced in 2016 or 2017 were considered. Since most of these players do not have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Pitchers

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript ballplayers 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 the ones 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. 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. A few successful examples of players I highlighted in this space last year:

  • Wilmer Font dominated the PCL by striking out a jaw-dropping 32% of batters as a starter, earning him a role on the deepest pitching staff in baseball. My money’s on him opening 2018 on someone’s big-league squad.
  • Lane Adams recorded 122 plate appearances of above-average production with the Braves, much of that coming as a pinch-hitter.
  • Jacob Turner was a serviceable swingman for the 97-win Nationals in the season’s first half (33.2 innings, 4.28 ERA through June 18th).

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. Since none of these players have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH. 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 considers only players who logged at least 200 minor-league batters faced in either 2016 or 2017.

For reference, here is my piece from yesterday on minor-league free-agent hitters.

*****

1. Scott Barlow, RHP

Barlow split time between the Dodgers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this past year, pitching to a stellar 3.29 ERA as a starter. He struck out 28% of opposing batters while walking a reasonable 10%. Barlow’s numbers were decidedly worse in his seven Triple-A appearances, but on the whole, his 2017 campaign was excellent for a 24-year-old starter.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Hitters

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript ballplayers 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 the ones 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. 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. A few successful examples of players I highlighted in this space last year:

  • Wilmer Font dominated the PCL by striking out a jaw-dropping 32% of batters as a starter, earning him a role on the deepest pitching staff in baseball. My money’s on him opening 2018 on someone’s big-league squad.
  • Lane Adams recorded 122 plate appearances of above-average production with the Braves, much of that coming as a pinch-hitter.
  • Jacob Turner was a serviceable swingman for the 97-win Nationals in the season’s first half (33.2 innings, 4.28 ERA through June 18th).

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. Since none of these players have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH. 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 considers only players who logged at least 200 minor-league plate appearances in either 2016 or 2017. Tomorrow, I’ll repeat this exercise for pitchers.

*****

1. Christian Lopes, 2B/3B

A seventh-round pick way back in 2011, Lopes has slowly but steadily worked his way through the Blue Jays organization, finally reaching Triple-A this past season. He hit a respectable .261/.349/.402 at the highest rung of the minor leagues while also showing speed on the bases. A 25-year-old infielder who can hit a little bit and run a little bit is about as compelling as minor-league free agents come.

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A New York-Penn League Pref List for 2017

Because most of the posts I publish at FanGraphs are based on my KATOH projection system, you might think my interests lie in stark contrast to the typical scout’s. My work is often presented against the backdrop of traditional prospect lists in an effort to identify players who may by underrated by the scouting consensus. However, I do attempt to see prospects in person from time to time in order to put faces and bodies to the stat lines I spend so much time analyzing.

As noted previously in these pages, my in-person looks are defined by one constraint — namely, my general reluctance to leave the five boroughs of New York. As such, I confine my interest in pro prospects to those players in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), seeing as many games over the summer as my schedule will permit.

What follows is specific sort of document, then, based on a combination of in-person looks, statistical performance, and geography. It is, in short, the pref list of someone who refused to stray far from New York City while compiling it. The mediocre scouting video is my own. KATOH numbers represent projected WAR over first six major-league seasons.

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The Players KATOH Got Wrong in 2017

Over the course of the last year, I’ve published projections for a boatload of prospects at this site. Now that the 2017 regular season is complete, I thought it might make sense to review how KATOH has performed with specific players. Last week, I looked at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts looked prescient. For this particular post, I’d like to look at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts have looked foolish.

Allow me to point out immediately that none of this is conclusive: we’re only a year (or less) into the big-league careers of the players included here. Labeling a six-year projection as definitively “right” or “wrong” following a single season is obviously premature. That said, we undoubtedly have a much clearer picture of these players’ futures than we did six months ago.

This analysis compares each player’s industry-wide consensus to his stats-only KATOH projection — which does not consider a player’s ranking on prospect lists. Stats-only is KATOH’s purest form and also the version that disagrees most fervently with the establishment. Note that I did not consider cases where all parties were wrong, such as Aaron Judge. Although KATOH’s No. 53 ranking of Judge looks silly now, it was on par with other rankings, which ranged from 44th to 145th.

Picking players for this article was obviously somewhat subjective. So if you have a player in mind that I neglected to mention, feel free to complain about it in the comments!

Prospects KATOH Liked
Here are the players on whom KATOH has typically been more bullish than other outlets. Players are listed in general order of “failure” in 2017.

Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia

Last winter, KATOH ranked Cozens as the top prospect in baseball. The large outfielder proceeded to tarnish my reputation by hitting .210/.301/.418 with a 36% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year. There was a lot to like about Cozens’ 2016: he mashed 40 homers, stole 21 bases, and graded out well in right field — all as a 22-year-old at Double-A. But evaluators were concerned about his strikeouts and predicted his power numbers would crater outside of Reading. The book is far from closed on Cozens, who KATOH still sees him as a back-end top-100 guy. But tippy-top prospects don’t have seasons like Cozens’ 2017.

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The Players KATOH Got Right in 2017

Matt Olson’s adjusted minor-league power numbers were encouraging. (Photo: Keith Allison)

Over the course of the last year, I’ve published projections for a boatload of prospects at this site. Now that the 2017 season is winding down, I thought it might make sense to review how KATOH has performed with specific players. For this particular post, I’d like to look at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts have looked prescient.

Allow me to point out immediately that none of this is conclusive: we’re only a year (or less) into the big-league careers of the players included here. Labeling a six-year projection as definitively “right” or “wrong” following a single season is obviously premature. That said, we undoubtedly have a much clearer picture of these players’ futures than we did six months ago.

This analysis compares each player’s industry-wide consensus to his stats-only KATOH projection — which does not consider a player’s ranking on prospect lists. Stats-only is KATOH’s purest form and also the version that disagrees most fervently with the establishment.

Writing this article was a lot of fun. Like everyone else, I enjoy saying “I told you so” when I’m right. But I also acknowledge that I’m often wrong. So as much as I’d like to tout these cherry-picked success stories and move on to current projections, I feel I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t write another article pointing out KATOH’s misses. Stay tuned.

Prospects KATOH Liked
Here are the players on whom KATOH has typically been more bullish than other outlets. Players are listed in general order of “success” in 2017.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, Philadelphia

As you’re probably aware, Hoskins had a pretty good summer. But before he was hitting homers at a ridiculous clip, Hoskins was an unheralded first-base prospect who had never cracked a major publication’s top-100 list. KATOH was all over him, though, due to his impressive minor-league numbers. My system ranked him No. 54 in the preseason and No. 14 when he was called up. He also cracked the All-KATOH Team in the preseason. The best minor-league hitters often succeed in the majors as well. As obvious as that sounds, the case of Rhys Hoskins shows that we sometimes overthink these things.

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Projecting Victor Robles

In something of a surprise move, the Washington Nationals have called up 20-year-old center fielder Victor Robles from Double-A. Robles spent most of the season at the High-A level, having only played at Double-A since late July. Robles lacks experience against big-league-caliber pitching, but met basically every challenge at the lower levels this year, hitting an outstanding .300/.382/.493 with 27 steals. You’d be hard-pressed to find many batting lines better and more well rounded than Robles’. He hits for average, hits for power, and is a weapon on the bases. Oh, and he’s also an elite center fielder who was worth 15 runs above average this year according to Clay Davenport’s numbers.

If you’re looking for any signs of weakness with Robles, his plate discipline is a candidate. He struck out in 17% of his plate appearances in the minors and walked in 7%, which are both league-average-ish marks. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with average strikeout and walk numbers, particularly when everything else is off the charts. But keep in mind that those figures were recorded mostly against A-ball pitching and are likely to worsen against big leaguers.

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Projecting J.P. Crawford

With September call-up season upon us, the Phillies have summoned top prospect J.P. Crawford from the minor leagues. He made his debut last night, starting at third base and notching his first career hit. Prior to his call up, Crawford hit .243/.351/.405 in Triple-A this year, including a powerful .284/.385/.517 since July 8th.

Crawford is an extremely talented player who can provide value in more ways than one. His minor-league batting lines don’t necessarily jump off the page, but in the context of his age and defensive value, they’re rather impressive. That’s why he’s been appearing near the tops of prospect lists — including KATOH’s — for years. Baseball America ranked him among the top-14 prospects each of the last three seasons, while Baseball Prospectus ranked him No. 4 each of the last two. Eric Longenhagen ranked him No. 9 in the preseason and No. 34 in his summer list.

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Projecting Jack Flaherty

Although St. Louis’s 67-66 record puts them 5.0 games out of a Wild Card berth, our projections continue to give them a still-realistic 13.0% chance at cracking the playoffs due to the talent on their roster. Mike Leake wasn’t helping much, as the veteran righty had allowed at least four runs in each of his last four starts, yielding a protuberant 10.24 ERA. St. Louis had apparently seen enough, trading Leake to Seattle. In his place, they’ve called up top prospect Jack Flaherty to make his major-league debut tonight at San Francisco. Flaherty ranked No. 57 on Eric Longenhagen’s updated top-100 list.

Flaherty was nothing short of excellent in the minors this year, pitching to a stellar 2.18 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. Most impressively, he struck out 25% of opposing batters while walking just 6%. If you’re looking for a nit to pick, it’s that Flaherty isn’t much of a ground-ball pitcher and, largely as a result, was a little homer-prone in his 15 Triple-A starts. But otherwise, his recent minor-league track record is impeccable.

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Projecting Rhys Hoskins

It’s been a rough season for the Phillies, whose record is the worst in baseball and sits comfortably below .400. They’ve trotted out quite a few bad players on a regular basis, including Tommy Joseph, who’s given them four months of disappointment at first base. While Joseph was turning in a 90 wRC+ with poor defense, Rhys Hoskins was annihilating Triple-A. Finally, the Phillies are giving him a whirl at the highest level.

Prior to his call-up, Hoskins hit an insane .284/.385/.581 across 475 Triple-A plate appearances. He belted 29 homers and simultaneously struck out less than 16% of the time. This performance didn’t come out of nowhere, either, as Hoskins slashed .281/.377/.566 and blasted 38 homers last season at Double-A. Those numbers were undoubtedly helped by his home ballpark in Reading, which led many to doubt their validity. But KATOH still loved him because the power numbers were so exceptional and they came packaged with acceptable strikeout rates.

My KATOH system pegs Hoskins for 10.0 WAR over his first six seasons by the stats-only method and 9.4 WAR by KATOH+, which incorporates his No. 69 rank on Baseball America’s midseason list. Those marks place him 14th and 27th, respectively, among prospects. 

Those WAR estimates don’t tell the whole story, however, as KATOH sees some serious star potential in Hoskins, giving him a roughly 1-in-5 chance of racking up over 20 wins over the next six years. For reference, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and Freddie Freeman were the only first baseman who crossed that threshold in the six-year span that ended in 2016.

To put some faces to Hoskins’ statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps. I calculated a Mahalanobis distance between Hoskins’ 2017 performance and every season since 1991. 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. Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Rhys Hoskins Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Tino Martinez 9.5 16.8
2 Chris Carter 8.4 0.0
3 Eric Karros 5.6 10.2
4 Hee-Seop Choi 6.3 3.3
5 Joey Votto 6.8 33.3
6 Travis Hafner 8.2 18.4
7 J.T. Snow 6.5 5.0
8 Carlos Pena 11.9 9.2
9 Todd Helton 8.8 33.4
10 Nick Johnson 10.1 12.5

Hoskins is limited to first base, which obviously puts a lot of pressure on his hitting. Even if he’s an above-average defender there, as Clay Davenport’s numbers suggest he is, the offensive bar remains extremely high. This is why KATOH sees him as a No. 20-ish prospect, even though his offensive numbers are eons better than most of the hitters ranked ahead of him. Nonetheless, hitters who pair that type of power with good contact skills are quite rare. Throw in that he also draws walks, and Hoskins looks like he could be a pretty special hitter.