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Redefining "Ceiling"


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#1 FarmerTanColin

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 02:30 PM

Former Baseball America contributor Conor Glassey came out with a post last night about productive major league players that weren't recognized as being a top prospect. Such names like Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Mike Sweeney, Tim Hudson, etc were never ranked in the top 100 of Baseball America. A lot of Cubs make the list of current minor leaguers that he sees having similar careers. What I found interesting is in the current era of so many scouting reports, opinions and statistics available online it leads to many fans making predictions, projections and throwing out words like ceiling and upside but are we overlooking what actually makes a major leaguer successful?

 

For example here are what scouts were saying about James Shields around 2005-2006.

  • John Sickels ranked him 9th below Wade Navis, Jason Hammel, Niemann, and two other pitchers that did very little.
  • raysprospects(dot)com ranked him 12..."12. RHP Jamie Shields - Though not overpowering for a righthander, Shields showed he has the overall package to be a solid fourth starter in the big leagues."
  • joeposnanski(dot)COM/joeblogs/prospects-2006/ This guy has a breakdown of every team regarding top prospect and best actual prospect. He is correct on..just about every team, very impressive. Here's what he said about the Rays. "

    No. 1 prospect: Delmon Young (No. 1 overall).

    Best actual prospect: No. 12 Jamie Shields (as James Shields was known then)."

  • Earliest article regarding Shields from baseballprospectus in 2006 was his callup replacing Casey Fossum. "he's coming off of an outstanding first two months in Durham: ten starts, 61.1 IP, 64 Ks, 60 hits, six walks, and three home runs. You don't want to use a word like junkballer to talk about a 24-year-old, but he throws two breaking pitches for strikes, a good change, while also fooling some of the people some of the time with a fastball that can nose over 90."

 

Using Fangraphs Shields has put up 28 WAR since 2006. Ranking him 14th next to Matt Cain, Adam Wainwright, and Tim Lincecum. That's averaging 4 WAR per season and projected to hit 4 again next season. Is that the upside of a "4th starter"? That is currently anchoring the Royals rotation? So no he's not a classic ace but he has been ace like (Dont call him Big Game James for nothing) and if anything he's a number 2.

 

So why am I talking so much about James Shields? Here are a couple more scouting reports and guess who they are referring to.

 

Fangraphs - "The hurler’s numbers immediately jump out: 1.85 ERA, 107 hits allowed in 126.1 innings (7.72 H/9) and just 26 walks (1.85 BB/9). The catch with Hendricks, though, is that he has a fringe-average fastball in the 87-91 mph range. He’s dominated hitters in the minors due to above-average control and command of his four-pitch repertoire" -Marc Hulet

 

"...his below-average fastball sits at 86-90 mph with a bit of life, and his arsenal is no more than average across the board. He succeeds by throwing strikes and changing speeds, and it will be a challenge for him to find the same success at the upper levels while lacking an out pitch." —Kevin Goldstein

 

 

If you guessed this was Cubs prospect Kyle Hendricks then you are correct. Am I comparing Hendricks to James Shields? Yes that should be obvious too. They were both projected to have an upside of a "4th starter" with the focus primarily on their lack of velocity. Both can sit around 89 touching 91-92. Excellent control with 4 pitches. Now if a 4th starter can average 4 War per season for 8 years then by all means I'll take all the 4th starters available.

 

Just something to keep in mind when evaluating prospects with a lack of "stuff" with good control, old age for a league, lower draft status are concepts to keep in consideration but not to overlooked.

 

Similar Cubs players that can fit this trend. Stephen Bruno, John Andreoli, Arismendy Alcantara to an extent (Parks recently remarked as being a better major leaguer than prospect). Travis Wood and Welington Castillo I think are guys that the Cubs currently have that definitely fit this trend.



#2 CubChymyst

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 02:49 PM

I have wondered how an outfield of tweeners (not good enough defense for center and not a good enough bat for corners) would play. John Andreoli is one of those guys that has fallen into that category, but has a good OBP. I don't think he'd ever be an all star but I think a 400 AB 2 WAR season out of him is certainly reasonable. An outfield of those types of players would likely get you a slightly above average outfield, but you would need impact talent on the infield and pitching to actually get far in the playoffs.



#3 FarmerTanColin

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 06:53 PM

Yeah the concept here is to sort of maximize these "tweeners". Andreoli fits this near perfectly. Senior, 17th round pick, plus hit tool, 55 grade speed(although prolific at stealing bases thus far), little power. He's not "under the radar" but he will never be a top prospect. I think he makes his ML debut this season since he has performed in A+ and AA about as well as he can.

 

Getting back to an outfield of these guys. WAR isn't the best method to predict the success of a team but you can go about this a few ways. First Andreoli put up +wOBA of 350-370 in the minor leagues which is about a 4 WAR player if defense and baserunning is league average, so his upside is of an all star player.

 

Now let's take the total OF WAR of the world series teams last year.

Boston came in at 15.7 WAR where the Cards came in at 10.5 (Cubs had 6.9)

 

Teams last year averaged 2300 PAs total for outfielders. Thats about 5 players getting 450 PAs each. (Rotating 5 OFers, sound Cub like?)...anyway say each player reaches 2 War...that's a 10 WAR outfield right there. If a guy has a career year say 4 WAR then you have a total of 12.  

 

Would you consider this OF to be championship caliber?

  • Chris Denorfia 3.9 WAR in 520 PA
  • Will Venable  2.9 WAR in 515 PA
  • Gregor Blanco 2.8 WAR in 511 PA
  • AJ Pollock 3.6 WAR in 482 PA
  • This leaves about 200-300 PAs for another guy as well

The OF above has 2 lefties 2 righties and guys that can play center so yes it is cherry picked but it can fill a teams outfield easy. The combined war above is 14+.

 

I hope I didn't deviate too far from tweeners but I think you can build a contender maximizing these players. Utilizing platoons and defense and on base percent is how you overcome not have 30 hr power or blazing speed. Also shows how amazing Mike Trout really is, he's a contending outfield all by himself.



#4 CubChymyst

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Posted 20 December 2013 - 09:17 AM

I think you'd need to scale the WAR down some for Andreoli upside. His number will likely decrease from minors to the majors so his upside to me is around 3 maybe a little over that. I'd be happy with an outfield that produces at least 9 WAR which I think is definitely do able using these types of players effectively.

 

My question is what is the maximum number of platoon positions you'd be comfortable with? For me it be 4 or 5 (depends on if catcher is platoon or not). 



#5 FarmerTanColin

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Posted 20 December 2013 - 10:46 AM

Yeah consider the 4 I said as the ceiling. 2-2.5 as his average per year. Unless you think 3 is his ceiling which I may not agree with completely but that's small potatoes.

 

If you get better production then I don't see why not platoon as much as possible. So if you carry 12 pitchers that leaves 13...8 starters...carry the 1...5 bench guys so 5 platoons? 4 realistically. The cost of those players are cheaper and they give great production against a certain type of pitcher. I believe a lot in catcher platoons simply for less wear on the player.



#6 calicubsfan007

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 01:33 PM

I always have liked Kendrick.  I agree that scouts are under-evaluating him.  But I would honestly prefer that to someone overhyped, then to failed miserably.



#7 BenRoethig

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 10:05 AM

Honestly, scouting isn't perfect.  Its a lot easier to measure the tangibles than the intangibles.  Based on the tangibles, Kyle Hendricks has average stuff.  He won't be getting anyone out based on talent alone.  He has some of those intangibles of a finesse pitcher, but the line between being the next Maddux and the getting shelled is razor thin.



#8 Alex S.

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 07:27 PM

"So why am I talking so much about James Shields? Here are a couple more scouting reports and guess who they are referring to.

 

Fangraphs - "The hurler’s numbers immediately jump out: 1.85 ERA, 107 hits allowed in 126.1 innings (7.72 H/9) and just 26 walks (1.85 BB/9). The catch with Hendricks, though,"

I guessed right at that part  :)






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