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.