Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Project Prospect Top 25 Pitching Prospects

For those of you interested, ProjectProspect.com recently released their list of the top 25 pitching prospects in baseball. It's a pretty good list, and well worth checking out. I'm not sure when they'll be releasing their top 100 or top 200 prospects list, but be on the look out for it in the coming months.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brett Anderson's Place in History

I realize these types of posts may be somewhat annoying to people, but I just signed up for a 1 month subscription to baseball-reference.com, so I'm trying to get my moneys worth.

Anyways, I wanted to take a look at Brett Anderson's season stats as compared to historical performances and see if he's as good as I think he is. I ran a screen for players that at or before the age of 21 struck out at least 150 batters, while posting an ERA below 5.00. My search brought up a total of 60 instances, with 48 individual pitchers on the list (multiple players accomplished the feat multiple times). With such a large number of players to sort through, I decided I would shave down the list a bit more.

So, I then checked for the best K/BB ratios among the list, with Anderson's 2009 season coming in at number 8. Of course, there are a lot of other stats that should be considered when putting players into historical categories, but a solid K/BB ratio usually suggests that a pitcher is successful at an individual level regardless of his team's performance. I'm not going to draw any conclusions just yet, but I want to finish off by posting a simple chart comparing Anderson's strikeout and walk rates from this year with those posted by other pitchers in baseball history.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Billy Butler and Pablo Sandoval: Headed for the Hall?

This past month, Billy Butler and Pablo Sandoval became the first players since Prince Fielder to top 70 extra base hits with 20 or more home runs in a season at the age of 23 or younger. It might seem like an arbitrary set of parameters to judge a player by, but it got me to thinking. Could either of these 2 young players be headed to greatness?

So, I checked to see how many times a 23 year old player had ever posted 70 total extra base hits with 20 or more home runs in a single season. A total of 71 instances came up, with 29 inactive or retired players and 19 active players accomplishing the feat (multiple players topped 70 extra base hits and 20 home runs before the age of 23 in multiple seasons).

Here's a list of the 19 active players included on the list.

And here are the inactive or retired players (obviously, I'm having trouble with font sizes).

Quite an impressive list of players. To put it all in perspective, I wanted to see how many of the retired players went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the 29 players that were eligible for the Hall of Fame, 17 have been inducted, which is a cool 58.6%. Not an overwhelming percentage, but if it's any indication for the future, we might be able to project that current players like Butler and Sandoval have roughly a 50:50 chance of making the Hall of Fame. While not definitive by any means, those are pretty good odds for any player, and very good company to be listed among.

Catching Up

I need to apologize for not posting in so long. The weather has been really nice lately, and school duties have been minimal the last 2 weeks, so I've been taking some time to go play a bit of golf and relax instead of crunching stats and chasing down overlooked prospects.

Though I haven't been writing much lately, I have been keeping up with the Wild Card races, as well as the Rookie of the Year races. Enough has been said about both, so I won't rehash either topic. I do want to make a few points about a handful of rookies from both leagues that might not be getting the attention they deserve:

  • Chris Coghlan is hitting .318 right now, which ties him with Ryan Braun for 5th in the league. His .387 OBP ties him with Pablo Sandoval for 15th in the N.L., and according to fangraphs.com Coghlan's 2009 stats are valued around $9.0 million. If he wins ROY, it will be well deserved, although I don't think he'll come out on top since voters usually gravitate toward more popular teams.
  • As far as I can tell, Garrett Jones' .955 mark leads all N.L. rookies in OPS. His 21 home runs and 44 total extra base hits tops Chris Coghlan's line despite the fact that Jones has received only 60% the number of at-bats. Fangraphs.com puts his performance at $11.0 for the year.
  • I have no idea who is going to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year, but I think voters should strongly consider Brett Anderson. His overall stats are less than impressive, but here are a few things about Anderson that may surprise even die-hard baseball fans. His K/BB rate is 17th in the majors, and 8th in the A.L. His FIP is 8th in the A.L., right behind C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett, and just ahead of John Lackey. Anderson's LD% is second in the majors, and his GB/FB rate is 5th in the A.L., right between Roy Halladay and Josh Beckett. According to fangraphs.com, Anderson's 2009 performance is valued at $17.2 million, good for 11th in the A.L., and so far I can't find a single player in either league with a more valuable stat line. While Rick Porcello has a better win loss record, his value is estimated at $7.7 million, and his other stats don't really compare to Anderson. Fellow ROY front runner Elvis Andrus has a 2009 value of $12.9 million. To me, this is a no-brainer. Anderson has essentially acheived the status of a #1 starter in his rookie season, at the ripe old age of 21.
  • I think my top pitching prospect heading into 2010 might be Jenrry Mejia.
  • The Braves almost pulled it off at the end there, but couldn't top the Rockies. I'll be really interested to see what Frank Wren does during the off-season. I'd like to see him trade one of his pitchers (Vazquez or Lowe?) and Kelly Johnson for one or two bats.

Ok, that's all for now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: Tommy Hanson 2009 Projection

Back in January I put together a post projecting Tommy Hanson's stats for 2009. At the time, it was hard to say how much the Braves would use Hanson, but ZiPS had him pegged for a total of 19 innings, a 5.21 ERA, and a 1-1 record. My projection wasn't perfect, but I think it was a bit better than the ZiPS projection.

To come up with my projection, I didn't simply grab some figures out of a hat. I compiled a list of comparables for Hanson and averaged out their performances during their major league season at the age of 23. At first glance, the compilation technique might not seem extremely accurate, but I think if we look a bit beyond the surface, we'll see that it is actually a very viable and mostly accurate approach.

Here's my projected line for Hanson coming into 2009:
7.9 K/9
4.1 BB/9
1.42 WHIP
4.56 ERA
.500 Win Percentage

Actual 2009 stats to date:
7.49 K/9
3.51 BB/9
1.25 WHIP
3.07 ERA
9-3 record, or .750 Win Percentage

The K/9 projection was relatively spot on, and the BB/9 projection wasn't too far off, but it would seem that my WHIP, ERA, and win percentage projections were completely obliterated. However, I would like to throw out another stat that Hanson has posted this year that will help make sense of the chaos:

Tommy Hanson 2009 tRA: 4.37

For those of you not familiar with tRA, here's the explanation given by fangraphs.com:

tRA involves assigning run and out values to all events under a pitcher’s control and coming up with an expected number of runs allowed and outs generated in a defense and park neutral environment. tRA is on a R/9 scale and does not involve any regression of the rates.

In essence, tRA gives us an idea of what a pitcher's true ERA should be given their overall performance throughout the season minus good luck and timely fielding.

Apparently, Hanson has had quite a bit of luck this season, and for whatever reason, his ERA is substantially lower than his tRA. This also helps explain why his WHIP and winning percentages seem to be so much better than my projections. Somewhere among all of his starts, there were a certain number of events that kept men off base and runners from crossing the plate while Hanson was on the mound, and his surface level stats depict a pitcher that is much different from his true production.

With that in mind, I feel like my projection of a 4.56 ERA is not far from Hanson's tRA of 4.37, and I think if we repeated the 2009 season 100 times in a vacuum, my projection would be remarkably accurate. Unfortunately, we don't live in a vacuum, and each season is only played once, and half of my projection has taken a sharp beating. I guess Tommy Hanson's good luck is by default my bad luck in this situation.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: 2009 Top 10 Hitters: #6-10

Prior to the 2009 season, I put together my list of the top 10 prospect hitters, and I think it's about time I reviewed the list to see how I did. I'll start with the last 5 hitters, and then cover the top 5 hitters later this week.

6. Chris Carter (Oakland) -- I couldn't remember how highly Carter was ranked before this season, so I checked Baseball America, and they had him as the 76th best prospect in baseball, behind players like Jose Tabata, Taylor Teagarden, and Wilson Ramos. I understand why some folks don't like Carter, but hopefully his numbers at AA this year have opened some eyes. At 22 years old, he improved his plate discipline by posting career bests in K% (20.1%) and BB% (13.9%), while also posting career highs in batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS (.337/.436/.576/1.012). To put that in context, Carter's numbers this year are almost identical to the AA stats of 22 year old Pedro Alvarez, who signed with the Pirates last year for a guaranteed $6.355 million. Not too shabby.

7. Max Ramirez -- This pick looks like my worst pick among the whole list. At 24 years old, I really thought Ramirez would force the Rangers to settle their future catching situation by trading at least one of their top catching prospects. However, no one has really stepped up to nail down the position, especially Ramirez. He has posted career lows in just about every category, and has been a complete disappointment in '09. There have been some injury issues, and maybe Ramirez just had a really bad year, but his future is looking a lot less promising than it was just 12 months ago.

8. Jesus Montero -- If I were to put this list together today, I'd definitely put Montero ahead of both Ramirez and Carter. His numbers this year were absolutely stellar, and I think he has a chance to be just as good as Miguel Cabrera or at least Pablo Sandoval. I think he's easily a top 10 prospect at this point, and maybe a top 5. It's amazing that Baseball America had him as the 38th best prospect heading into 2009.

9. Josh Reddick/Freddie Freeman/Lars Anderson -- During the preseason, I couldn't decide which one of these guys I liked more. At this point, I'd definitely go with Reddick. Anderson was much more hyped a few months ago, but he's struggled a ton, and has only gotten worse as the season has progressed. Freeman hasn't done too bad, but his power has dropped, and he probably won't be a major league contributor for another 3 years. Meanwhile, Reddick (who was completely left off Baseball America's top 100 list) was able to improve his plate discipline at AA while maintaining his power production, and has even been given a few spot starts with the Red Sox this season, hitting 4 doubles and a home run in 35 plate appearances.

10. Colby Rasmus -- I think putting Rasmus in at #10 was a good pick (Baseball America had him as the 3rd best prospect in baseball in front of Jason Heyward and Brett Anderson). He is obviously very talented, but will take a while to develop.

Summary: Looking back, I'd probably leave Ramirez off this list, include just Reddick at #9, and probably put Andrew McCutchen somewhere in my top 10 (probably around #8). I'm glad I left Travis Snider off the list (ranked #6 by Baseball America), who continues to struggle with Toronto, and I'm also glad I passed on Mike Moustakas (Baseball America's number 13 prospect, and Cameron Maybin (#8 by Baseball America).

Overall, I'd give my #6-10 list here a 'B'. I whiffed on Ramirez, but my other 4 picks were pretty good, so I'll take 80%. Could have been better, but could have been much, much worse.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TPC 2009 Top 10 Hitters in the Midwest League

Over the coming weeks and months heading into the off-season, I'm going to be combing through a ton of minor league stats and highlighting the top 10 hitters and pitchers from each league this year. Today, I'd like to start with the top 10 hitters from the Midwest League.

I didn't spend a lot of time putting this list together, but I did spend a few hours breaking down stats and trying to eliminate players that I thought didn't belong in the running. I think the list is pretty good, but if anyone has thoughts about players I might have left off, let me know.

1. Jaff Decker -- At 19 years old, Decker is a rare mix of patience and power. He's not quite an elite hitter, but could very well develop into a blend of Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, hitting 30 or more home runs a year, with an on-base percentage that floats around in the high-.300 area. Unfortunately, he'll also play in San Diego, which means he might have to settle for a bunch of doubles during the first few years of his career.

2. Josh Vitters -- Vitters moved up to advanced A ball in July, but while he was in A ball with the Cubs, he tore the cover off the ball. With 15 home runs and 28 total extra base hits in 288 plate appearances, he was on pace to put up some huge numbers. My biggest concern with Vitters is that he has yet to post a walk rate above 4.7% in his professional career, and this year he's sitting right around 2%. I don't think hitters necessarily have to walk a ton to be successful, but this could become a really big problem for Vitters at higher levels.

3. James Darnell -- The Padres have 2 of the top 3 hitters on this list, with Decker taking the #1 spot, and Darnell coming in at #3. At 22 years old, Darnell will probably be rushed through the minors, which so far hasn't been a problem, as he's posted an OPS of .965 or higher up through advanced A ball this year. His career numbers match up with an odd group of players that include Andy Laroche, Conor Jackson, and Alex Gordon, so it's hard to say at this point what the Padres can expect from Darnell.

4. Brett Lawrie -- Lawrie recently made the jump to AA, but I think a bit more time at A ball might have been a good thing for him. He has decent plate discipline with moderate power, but he seemed to struggle at times, and didn't show much improvement as the year progressed. Lawrie has the tools to be a very good player, but putting them all together might take some time.

5. Josh Fellhauer -- A 7th round pick by the Reds in the 2009 draft, Fellhauer came into professional ball as a hitter with what might be considered an average set of skills. But I like the fact that he signed quickly, and jumped right into A ball hitting 6 home runs in his first 2 months, and posted a strikeout rate of just 13%. He's not a big guy, and the power numbers may never substantially increase, but his overall make-up leads me to believe that Fellhauer should at the minimum make an average everyday major league player down the road.

6. Brett Jackson -- With a small sample size and suspect plate discipline, I'm not ready to believe this 2009 1st round draft pick is the real deal, but I'll give him a chance. Good defensive skills, raw plate approach.

7. Kyler Burke -- Burke's stats prior to 2009 were very average to say the least, but something seems to have clicked this year, and he has developed a lot as a hitter. He might regress next year, but for now I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and keep an eye on him in 2010.

8. Andrew Cumberland -- I really like to see a young hitter that can post a strikeout rate of about 10% and match that with a walk rate between 8% and 12%. It seems to be a good indicator for major league success. With that in mind, I think 20 year old Andrew Cumberland might have the skills to be a major league shortstop in the coming years. His highest career strikeout rate is just 11%, and this year he posted a walk rate of 12% while hitting .302.

9. Alexia Amarista -- Amarista has essentially the same stats as Cumberland, but will probably end up in the outfield or at second base, making him a little less valuable on defense.

10. Allan Dykstra -- I was hoping to see Dykstra really turn it on this season, but other than working the count a lot, I'm not sure he has much to offer. I'm not giving up on him entirely, but he's slowly fading from my radar.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: 2009 Top 20 Pitching Prospects #6-10

Last week I reviewed my top 5 pitching prospects for 2009, so this week it's time for the other 5 guys I ranked in the top 10. While there are a few changes I would make given the chance, I think my top 10 actually came out pretty good.

6. Neftali Feliz -- Up until about 6 weeks ago I wasn't sure how this pick was going to work out. Last year Feliz rocked AA hitters, posting 47 strikeouts in 45 innings, while hitting 100 mph on his fastball at the ripe old age of 20 years old. But Feliz struggled in AAA this year, posting a relatively meager 18% K% in April and June. I'm not sure if the learning curve was a little steeper this year, or if Feliz focused more on his secondary stuff, but it took about 3 months and a move to the bullpen before he looked like the pitcher we saw in 2008. Of course, we all know how well Feliz has performed at the major league level for the Rangers, accumulating 17 strikeouts in 11.2 innings with 0 walks, and a WHIP of 0.34. It's obviously not a very large sample size, but still very impressive. I hope Frank Wren never again allows a guy like Feliz to slip out of the Braves farm system.

7. Rick Porcello -- My gut told me to rank Porcello a bit higher than I actually did before the season started, but it seemed like there was going to be plenty of opportunities to reevaluate the Tigers young ace since he hadn't yet thrown a single pitch above advanced A ball. Guess I was wrong. The Tigers gave Porcello a spot in their starting rotation, and he has done quite well given his age and experience level. Looking back, I think I should have given Porcello the #4 or #5 spot and dropped David Price to #7.

8. Jhoulys Chacin -- This doesn't seem like a very radical pick, but going into 2009 Baseball America had Chacin ranked as the 46th best prospect in baseball, right behind Tim Alderson. I'm not saying this was a great pick by me, but I think having Chacin in my top 10 was a smart move. He's not going to be a dominant pitcher any time soon, but I think he could be just as good Jair Jurrjens in a few years.

9. Jairo Heredia -- Heredia was my most radical top 10 pick. He still isn't on any other top 50 list as far as I know, and I don't think he's going to get much attention for at least another 6 to 12 months. Heredia spent the majority of 2009 on the DL for a mystery injury, but has put in 26 innings at A and advanced A ball since July, collecting 21 strikeouts and just 3 walks. In retrospect, I might drop Heredia to #11 or #12 and maybe replace him with someone like Jenrry Mejia, but Heredia still deserves a lot more attention than he's been getting.

10. Christian Friedrich -- Baseball America ranked Friedrich as the 95th best prospect in baseball going into 2009 right behind Brad Holt, Phillippe Aumont, and Andrew Brackman, so I think I can give myself a pat on the back for putting him in my top 10. In 103 innings between A and advanced A ball, Friedrich has 140 strikeouts with just 37 walks, and has allowed just 74 hits. He still has work to do, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a shot at the Rockies starting rotation early next year.

Overall, I'd give myself a B+ for my #6-10 picks. I probably should have included Tommy Hanson in my top 10, but I'm still not completely sold on him (I'll explain later).
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Monday, August 17, 2009

2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players Still in Contention

Now that we've covered the N.L. position players still vying for Rookie of the Year, let's spend some time on A.L. position players.

Going into the 2009 season, Matt Wieters headed almost every preseason list, and I really thought he had the best chance to win ROY. But things haven't quite worked out for Wieters, and guys like Elvis Andrus and Gordon Beckham are stealing the spotlight.
Let's check the stats for a second, and then I'll cover the A.L. pitchers in my next post.I've highlighted the best stats for each category, and it looks like there are only 3 real contestants here: Elvis Andrus, Nolan Reimold, and Gordon Beckham. However, after looking at the stats of some recent R.O.Y. winners, I'm not sure Andrus has much of a chance. Historically speaking, guys like Elvis Andrus and Dexter Fowler have to do a lot more than steal 30 bases in order to take home the Rookie of the Year Award. Here's a quick list of the 6 most recent position players to win the award while stealing 20 or more bases.

If history is any indicator, Andrus and Fowler don't stand much of a chance. Here's how they stack up against the above players.

Not very comparable, is it? Ultimately, Gordon Beckham is probably the only rookie position player that has a shot at hitting .300 while posting an OPS around .850, which doesn't guarantee him anything, but at least puts him in the vicinity of historical averages in 2 categories.

Overall, I'd call this a very week year for rookie position players in both leagues, which means the R.O.Y. could very easily go to at least one pitcher, if not two.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players in Contention

Yesterday I took a look at the pitchers still in contention for the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award, so today we're going to take a look at the position players still in contention. There are some familiar names topping the list, but there are also a handful of surprises making a run at R.O.Y.

Pulling some averages from my preseason N.L. R.O.Y. post, here's how the top 6 rookie position players stack up (notice that my list does not include Garret Jones, who has hit just 2 home runs since July 24th).

With about 50 games left, let's assume each player accumulates somewhere around 200 at-bats (I think Casey McGehee is the only player on the list that isn't receiving full playing time). The only players that could possibly reach 20 home runs are Colby Rasmus, Casey McGehee, and maybe Andrew McCutchen, but I don't think any of them will actually accomplish the feat. I also don't think anyone will reach the 75 RBI mark, and I would be surprised if anyone ends the season with a batting average above .300.

Ultimately, I think this will come down to a three way race between Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan, and Andrew McCutchen. Fowler has the edge due to his speed, but no one is an obvious frontrunner when compared to the 3 pitchers I discussed yesterday.

To sum up the N.L. race, I'd give Dexter Fowler the overall lead right now, with J.A. Happ coming in second, and Randy Wells pulling in at third. After that, there's a 4-way time between Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Coghlan, and Casey McGehee. It should be a very interesting race over the next month and a half, and there's a good chance the award will ultimately go to the player who has the hottest September.
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