Fangraphs Does the M’s Prospecting Thing
Early on in my blogging career, I paid attention to a lot of the national outlets when they published their prospect lists. The bigger operations that everyone recognizes as institutions like Baseball America, the one-man operations that were about a half-step up from Geocities site design, I published and discussed all of them, perhaps in a desire to present as much information as possible and use it as a venue to talk about why x-source over y. In time, as my own knowledge of the system deepened and the Seattle blogosphere developed their own cadre of analysts, I stopped looking at 95% of them. Most of them failed to do much more than look at numbers, which ended up with ludicrous claims like Bryan Lahair as the team’s #1 prospect, or more recently, putting Erasmo Ramirez in the top ten. Others tried to get clever by putting the top dollar signing of the last international period in their listing, which was often based more in hope than reality. Among the better ones, there were still those that would make claims that general scouting knowledge of the system might otherwise eliminate. Given that background, the number of national outlets one reasonable should be looking at, you probably don’t need your whole hand to count through.
With that in mind, I’m going to bring to the table a new national resource, FanGraphs, which is not terribly new to most of you, but new insofar as it doesn’t have a lot of top ten prospect lists under its belt. Marc Hulet’s meandering tour of the league has finally arrived in Marinersland, a rather dangerous ground for a national analyst to be treading on these days. Hulet opted to exclude international signings of the past season, a defensible move, but he also decided that ’09 draftees would not be part of the discussion, which is a bit bolder. The list he provides looks like this:
#1 OF Michael Saunders
#2 C Adam Moore
#3 IF Carlos Triunfel
#4 3B Alex Liddi
#5 RHP Michael Pineda
#6 IF Matt Tuiasosopo
#7 LHP Nick Hill
#8 SS Gabriel Noriega
#9 RHP Maikel Cleto
#10 OF Johermyn Chavez
The overall effect is not a bad one. The top three is logical and respects Triunfel on scouting details where others threw him out for numerical ones, and Liddi at four, while not ideal, is okay given the parameters he outlined. Hulet also earns some points for putting on Tuiasosopo on merit of him being a reasonably good prospect on the fringe of the majors, which is something that BA flubbed on two years in a row, and coming to reasonable conclusions on Pineda. He deserves credit for hitting those points.
The back four are more easily disputed. I’m with Dave on the matter of Nick Hill and think he’s made enough progress to have some kind of major league future ahead of him. He also hits the groundball point, which is important because the lower velocity might otherwise be misinterpreted. The suggestion that Hill would make the club as a left-on-left reliever is a more questionable analysis. Hill, like a lot of southpaws who partially rely on the strength of their change-up, has some issues with left-handed hitters. While he did have a higher BABIP contributing to that this past season, his career numbers read the same way. Left-handed batters just hit him more easily, and harder as well, particularly last season. It’s not that Hill “isn’t helpless against right-handed hitters”, it’s that he’s provably better, and has been every season since he debuted. This means that his value as a pure “left-handed reliever” is questionable, so much of his value ends up tied into starting, where he’s had few opportunities to prove himself as of yet. I would be hesitant to put him as the next pitcher after Pineda.
As he comments on Noriega, he narrowly skirts an issue that many national sources have had by mentioning his bat without using his slugging as a springboard to make predictions about his future power, which most scouts seem to doubt will become average. He does, however, raise another issue in raising the possibility that he may fill out and move to third, as he’s acknowledging the fact that he’s the system’s best infielder right now. This is a bit of a leap, as it’s something that hasn’t really been mentioned so far as I know since his debut year. There were rumblings as to whether or not he would be a shortstop initially, but I would attribute that to sketchy international scouting information more than any flaws in Noriega himself, so the conclusion is a bit out of date.
Cleto is a player that made a number of top ten for a lot of people, a testament to the abilities that brought him into the organization in the first place. It pleases me to see that people have still remembered this even as his visa issues limited him to less than thirty innings in his new organization. From a physical aspect, I would count him among the more talented pitchers in the organization, and his fastball is easily one of the top three on the farm, but I find it difficult to avoid comparing him to fellow trade acquisition Mauricio Robles who, while not as big (and ergo, a little riskier), is left-handed, has run better FIPs thus far, and provides better secondary offerings, and those last two come in spite of his inconsistent mechanics to date. I’d slot Robles above Cleto right now, though I know not everyone would agree with that assessment.
Finally… Johermyn Chavez. Those of you who have read my piece (I can’t reiterate too much here) would know that I have legitimate concerns about his future and think the comparisons to Wlad Balentien were often unfair to Wlad. To add to that, Wlad was a fringe CF throughout the minor leagues and as he’s improved over the years has gotten to the point where he was above-average corner outfielder this past season, and can expect to stay there in the future. Even though the projections of him may have been a little ambitious this year, it’s really unfortunate that he’s losing time to Johnny Gomes in Cincinnati. But to get back to Chavez, acknowledging his flaws, would you put him over a much more physical player like Halman, or a less talented player that’s almost certain to have a major league career, like Carp? I can’t say I would, but Hulet acknowledges that he’s a long-time Chavez fan, so to each their own.
These are all details that you would probably get out of local coverage over national coverage. This is not to really diminish the scale of Hulet’s undertaking, which is incredible as a one-man operation, but to do this level of coverage leads to inevitable sacrifices. Still, if you’re looking to see how the prospecting world at large views our system, you could do a lot worse than Hulet, and I’d number him among the better analysts out there for the depth he’s willing to go into.