It was a good week in the prospecting world – at least for an early January week, anyway – because we got the Baseball America Cubs list, and also because we got to drool over Kyle Schwarber’s future with a new Prospects Progress piece. And still, there’s more to discuss …
- Speaking of Schwarber, the mashing prospect took over the Dinger Bats Twitter account for a little while yesterday to answer questions, which you should be able to see here. Best answer to a question? When asked about his favorite statistic, Schwarber pointed to quality at bats. Don’t know what that is? Well, don’t feel bad: it’s not a stat that we get to see as fans. My understanding (based on a memory I can’t pinpoint) is that the Cubs track, manually and on a per-at-bat basis, whether an at bat (or plate appearance, if you prefer) was “quality” or not. That could mean a lot of things, but it’s not necessarily tied to the result of the at bat (which isn’t always in a player’s control). Working the count full, fouling off a few pitches, and then striking out on a tough slider? That could be a quality at bat. Attacking a very hittable first pitch and ground out hard to shortstop? That could be a quality at bat. When you’re talking about whether a prospect’s plate approach is developing as you’d like it to (and that’s highly individualized), the quality of his at bats – not his results – are what you want to know most. So good on Schwarber for recognizing that, and maybe this year we can try and get a little more information on how the Cubs track at bats in that way (without spilling any propriety Cubs Way stuff).
- There was really so much great stuff in Baseball America’s release this week, that I’ve got to discuss just a bit more. But I’m going to give you only a tease because it’s subscription stuff, and they work hard to put it together. If you want the full goodness, you’ll have to subscribe. Among the “top tools” in the Cubs’ organization, I was very intrigued to see Jake Stinnett’s slider listed as the best slider (we already know he’s got a very good power sinker, and I can’t wait to see how his first full year goes, given how late he converted to pitching – he could break out). I was also intrigued to see Victor Caratini listed as the best defensive catcher – that could be faint praise, given the lack of quality defensive catchers in the organization, but we know he’s got an intriguing bat already. BA seems to think Billy McKinney can handle center field, which could be part of the reason he was ranked ahead of Albert Almora. Lastly, BA really likes Pierce Johnson’s stuff, and notes that he’s added a short slider (i.e., a slider/cutter mix – a slutter, as we call it), which I have been told was a big part of his success later in the year. If his slutter is anything like Jake Arrieta’s slutter … ooh, baby.
- Like I said, there’s so much more in there. I left the full write-up feeling very, very good about the Cubs’ pitching situation in the lower minors. Tons of breakout candidates.
- In conjunction with the BA list and write-up, John Manuel held a chat about the Cubs. Among his many interesting thoughts: (1) Jen-Ho Tseng was considered for the top 10, but his combination of good polish/low ceiling made him less attractive than a guy like Duane Underwood, with a much higher ceiling based on the stuff; (2) Manuel could see seven or eight Cubs prospects making the top 100 (that’s AFTER Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara graduated, man!); (3) Manuel said he was tempted to go very bullish on Stinnett and make him the top pitching prospect in the org (mercy – I’m super high on Stinnett, but that’s *really* high); (4) one Cubs official said that outfielder Charcer Burks was the most improved Cubs prospect in terms of plate approach last year (he’s someone to watch at South Bend next year, together with outfielder Kevonte Mitchell); and (5) the Cubs may have the best 11 to 20 ranked group of prospects in baseball (and they might have the best 1-10, too, so wrap your head around that). Once again, there’s so damn much good stuff in the Manuel chat, but it’s subscription, so I’m giving you only a tiny slice for discussion purposes. If you want more, you’ll have to go get it.
- UPDATE: According to Matt in the comments – thanks, Matt! – these two BA pieces are actually FREE to read if you register at BA. No payment of monies necessary. So go do it and then read the goodness.
- Meant to share this much sooner, but here were are: an updated take on prospect valuations at FanGraphs. Bookmark that for future fights about surplus value and trades.
- The Hardball Times takes a stab at forecasting big league performance using minor league stats. I’m not going to put too much into the actual numbers until I understand them a little better, but I do take it as a good sign that – whatever the numbers – when the prospects are stacked against each other, five of the top thirteen are Cubs prospects.