Misc. Minor League Ramblings

Talk about the Cardinals minor league baseball
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Jocephus
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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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i bet $10,000

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

Post by phins »

Ryan Braun was a SS in college, Jim. Ryan Braun! Gaby Sanchez was a 3B'man.

The athleticism allows the prospect to have other options. If you start as a corner bat and have to move down, you have to really mash to be worth anything at all. If you have plus athleticism you can add value in other ways and still make the bigs.

I completely agree that the truly elite, elite players are guys who just flat crush the baseball, but the vast majority of players are not elite (otherwise we'd have to change the definition of elite), they're just guys trying to carve out careers. For example, a guy who can handle SS can be a utility guy at the big league level. A 2B who isn't good enough to start and can't play SS really doesn't hold a ton of value because he can't be a utility player. There's a reason corner guys who start mash; they have to just to be at the level.

I definitely try to evaluate players based on baseball skills, but I also have to evaluate based on their options to contribute if things do not develop as expected. It's a kind of risk/reward equation and taking into consideration how readily available players are who play that position (i.e. 1B'man are easier to find than a SS who can play the position at a plus defensive level).

That said, I truly do not want to engage in a long-winded debate, so I'll hit-and-run.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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As always great insight phins.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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haltz wrote:I haven't read this whole argument, but Cabrera was a SS in the low minors, Donaldson was a catcher and Gordon put up +27 on defense last year. MiLB SSs are MLB 3B and CF turn into RF etc. You can end up without athleticism, but it's hard to start without it.
Of the batch of highly-touted SS prospects, not all have the bat to move to a corner spot and play at a high level once their bodies fill out and they mature. Machado has a 111 wRC+ and gets most of his value on D. If Machado loses his quick-twitch defensive ability as he ages he's a league-average player if the bat does not come along. Bogaerts has an 83 wRC+ and no value. Profar, still a pup, has a 74 wRC+ and is negative fWAR. If you're gonna cherry-pick the SS prospects who moved to corners and had success, we need to also acknowledge the toolsy SS prospects who busted or were league-average or below despite big prospect hype*, and the corner bats who got no prospect love and turned out pretty awesome.** Part of the reason for this is exactly what I'm saying: the people ranking Donaldson the SS prospect or Cabrera the SS prospect (he peaked at 38 as a SS on the BA list then was ranked 12 as a 3B) didn't like them as SSs because they didn't project to stick at the spot like the toolsy no-hit guys with the sexy quick-twitch D. They overlooked what Donaldson and Cabrera can do--which provides more value at the MLB level--in favor of ranking other guys whose skill sets don't provide that much value.

Look at the bunch of highly touted guys right now, and Correa is the only one I see who looks like he can hit enough to justify a starting job at a non-SS position. The way he's growing, he should probably not be considered a future MLB SS. Russell, he's only played a full year at a level once, at high-A, and he hit well. He didn't do so hot in AA last year, and if he were a 1B in the minors everyone would bemoan his 4.4% walk rate and say "bad approach, won't make it in the show." But BP's writeup of him, under 'strengths,' lists his 'improved approach.' Huh? I've seen Russell, he will swing away and I did not (when he was in low-A) see an advanced approach, and I can't imagine it's that much better at AA (where I admittedly did not see him) when he's walking 4% of the time. They'd crucify a 1B prospect for that walk rate, but Russell gets a pass. He'll develop. Rizzo, Adams, they won't, but Russell will, in their eyes. They're dreaming things on Russell that are not there. Lindor's first taste of the high minors was not a smashing success. I saw him in a series in Akron 1.5 years ago and he was ok. In game, ok. In batting practice, ok. He's a glove prospect who needs to hit to justify a top-5 prospect ranking. Among these guys, there's not a Tulo in them (unless Correa just murders it, I'll allow for that possibility but I think he ends up a 3B) who goes out and hangs 6+ WAR every year he's healthy. I just don't see it in any of them, and I've seen all three of those guys. And if they're not a Tulo-grade SS then why would they be making up most of the top-5 prospects? Especially when there are some future perennial All-Stars in the mix like Bryant, Tapia, Soler?

It makes no sense. It's like if I said you have $10, and I have $5, and the interest rate for both is 5% annually, and in 10 years my $5 is going to be worth more. We know, because of value metrics, that SSs are not the population of players that tend to put up the most value. We know this. It's, like, objective. We know that bats carry more value than gloves. Also objective. Then these guys boost players because they play shortstop. But that position produces less value, and the guys these guys like (like Lindor and Profar) and rank high tend not to produce as much as the ones (like Miggy and Donaldson) that they rank low. It's totally backward. It's completely absurd.

If I had to project the three, I'd say:
Correa ends up a very good 3B with a few All Star games in him.
Russell ends up an ok, league average SS.
Lindor ends up a defensive whiz who can't hit enough to justify starting daily--think Brendan Ryan/Andrelton Simmons light.

If I had to project some corner bat guys, I'd say:
Bryant wins an MVP or two
Tapia ends up a top-20 position player
Soler ends up a perennial All-Star

*Guys like BJ Upton, a SS prospect, who never had one All-Star worthy year. Brandon Wood. Kazuo Matsui. Bobby Crosby. Sergio Santos. Joel Guzman. Alcides Escobar. There are more of them than there are SS prospects who become impact corner bats.

**Anthony Rizzo (peaked at #47 on BA, two spots behind Hak-Ju Lee), Freddie Freeman (peaked at #17, three spots behind the inferior Machado), Votto (peaked at #43, 27 spots behind Reid Brignac), Goldschmidt (never ranked), and so on. There are more of these, corner bats ranked too low, than there are toolsy quick-twitch SSs who became good corner bats.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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phins wrote:I completely agree that the truly elite, elite players are guys who just flat crush the baseball, but the vast majority of players are not elite (otherwise we'd have to change the definition of elite), they're just guys trying to carve out careers.
Please understand my argument with the rankings is not with positions, like, 40-100. It's at the top. I see these things as noise. Annual hype machines for toolsy SSs that fit the baseball libido of guys who write about prospects. If they hype them enough, maybe they can get enough of the public to believe in their backwards assessment that Francisco Lindor is a "better" prospect than Kris Bryant, which Lindor is 100% for sure not. If they can get people to believe in their incorrect rankings based on dreaminess of quick-twitch up-the-middle players, maybe they can land a podcast then a sweet gig as a scout for the Twins or something. These lists and this noise might serve that, but it doesn't help a critical reader who knows where value comes from do anything other than read it and dismiss it. That's the whole argument here, in this rant/ramble. That they overstate the elite status of toolsy up-the-middle guys, and they rank them too often higher than the elite bats who are going to create more MLB value.

Buxton is not the best prospect. He didn't hit well at high-A last year at age 20. Then he got concussed. Then he went to the AFL and was pretty much meh. Kiley wrote in his FanGraphs profile of Buxton: "His eventual upside is a .290/.355/.470 slash line." An 825 OPS for a CF who plays good D is Adam Jones. Not Mike Trout (which "Best Prospect In Baseball" shouts) but Adam Jones. A fine player. A guy with a 5-win year or two in him. Kiley says of Bryant in FG "Bryant’s eventual upside is a .275/.360/.540 slash line." A 900 OPS at 3B is Longoria with lesser D. A guy with a bunch of 6+ win seasons in him. Who you want, Adam Jones or Longoria Lite? If we think Bryant is Longoria Lite (we should) and Buxton is Jones (we should) we should appropriately (as Law did) rank Bryant over Buxton.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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There is a strong and deep crop of SS coming up, that's why you see so many ranked in the top 10.

2010: OF/P/OF/C/P/OF/C/3B/P/C - strong crop of catchers (Montero, Posey, Santana). No SS.
2011: OF/OF/C/OF/P/P/P/1B/3B/OF - strong crop of OF'ers (Harper, Trout, Myers). No SS.
2012: OF/P/OF/P/P/C/SS-2B/P/P/P - finally your SS, Profar comes in at 7.
2013: SS/P/OF/OF-3B/P/P/P/SS/3B/OF - now two - Profar at 1 and Boegarts at 7.
2014: OF/3B-SS/OF/P/SS/3B/SS/3B/P/OF - the wave of SS start, they list Boegarts at SS/3B but Baez and Correa make the list, both above Bryant who at the time of the rankings had about 100 professional AB's.

I just don't see any evidence of your claims. 50 ratings, 4 went to SS's and two more went to SS-combos. 6 out of 50. Seems proportionate to me.

The scouting community has no agenda other than to find players that can help win games at the MLB level. They are paid to do this, they spend every waking hour thinking about this. It's fine to have your own opinion, I sometimes disagree with the establishment. But what I don't do is make claims that I know more than they do, or condescending comments toward real experts (hype machines, some weird motive for podcasts which I don't even understand what you are saying).

Buxton or Bryant? I'm nervous about Buxton because he hasn't stayed on the field enough, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong, but I'd go with Buxton. That would be the guy I would want to build my team around more than Bryant.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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Where's Goldschmidt on that 2012 list? Unranked, despite going 306/435/626 in AA the year before.
Where's Rizzo on that 2011 list? 69th, despite going 331/404/652 in AAA at age 21 the year before.
How about Abreu in 2014? Unranked (Jon Singleton was the only 1B ranked).

Which SS had more value last year than any of those three guys? Just one, Peralta.

There's a habitual overranking of up-the-middle players and uderrating of guys who mash by these guys.

"The scouting community has no agenda other than to find players that can help win games at the MLB level." The BP guys are NOT the scouting community, they're the write-about-scouting-on-the-internet community. KG was good at it, made a nice brand for himself, got a bigtime job in Houston. Parks was good at it, made a nice brand for himself, got a nice job with the Cubs. They have agendas, the guys at BP who are all Parks hires, and that agenda is to make a nice little brand for themselves and get a job with a team.

The best way to stand out would be for one of them to say what I'm saying--our community is not valuing bats enough, because bats drive value. Cubs under Theo/Jed, every draft pick is the best bat. They took Schwarber, a pure hitter with no position, with a top-10 pick last year. They covet bats. That's what their scouts value, and they're telling you with their high first round picks the last few years. Mo does the same thing. Ever notice he has no problem taking a HS pitcher--Flaherty, Shelby, Jenkins, Kaminsky, etc. but his position player picks in the first round tend to be college bats like Piscotty, Wong, Cox? He's built a pretty consistent, solid farm that turns out a lot of talent without having any all-tools/no-baseball-skills five-star studs.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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Cardinals took the best bat in the draft when they had Wallace. Didn't work. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't.

I rarely read anything from BP so I don't have any idea what BP is writing about. If you are saying BP has an agenda and over-values guys, then that's a little different than what I thought you were saying.

They also took Schwarber to save slot money, they didn't do it just because he was the best player at that spot.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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They took the best natural bat who happened to save them draft money because no one wants to spend on a C?/1B?/Corner OF? guy with no position in the top 10 of a draft. And that's not because the Cubs made a bad pick, it's because lots of teams (like the BP prospecting editorial crew) don't properly value awesome bats.

We hear all the time the little problems this bat has and that bat has. Adams doesn't walk enough. Rizzo played in the PCL, it's probably inflated. Taveras played in Springfield, it's a hitter's park. "Strikeouts will always be a part of (Bryce) Harper's game"--Kevin Goldstein, 2012 Nats prospects list. A scout was quoted: “I've seen (Rizzo) hit for average, and I've seen him it for power, but I am left wondering if he can do both.” In 2011 Goldstein ranked Goldschmidt 10th on the Diamondbacks list and said his PERFECT World Projection was "solid but unspectacular."

There are all these knocks on big-time hitters when they're in the minors, all these rationalizations for why they won't make it, and they rarely if ever put these rationalizations on toolsy up the middle guys. No one wants to point out that Lindor is a tiny guy with little power--he slugged .388 across two levels last year--they want to instead say something like "if he develops some power as he matures." With the toolsy guys, the assumption is always that athleticism will lead them to develop into something better than they are. And that's ok, but you have to give the same assumption to baseball skills. Rizzo, Goldschmidt, the other big bats, these guys can improve their hit/power the same as Lindor can develop some power. The way these guys go about it, giving benefit of the doubt and projection to the toolsheds instead of to the Baseball Players, is wrong.

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Re: Misc. Minor League Ramblings

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If you have it all figured out you are going to be famous.

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