Fangraphs Does the M’s Prospecting Thing

Jay Yencich · February 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

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.

Comments

21 Responses to “Fangraphs Does the M’s Prospecting Thing”

  1. The Ancient Mariner on February 26th, 2010 3:00 pm

    Also, it would seem to me that Dan Cortes clearly has to go ahead of Cleto, and perhaps ahead of Hill as well (though Hill intrigues me, and he would seem to be a safter bet to produce).

  2. Jay Yencich on February 26th, 2010 3:03 pm

    That would be one of the conclusions I was gesturing towards. The walks are a problem, certainly, but looking at how far he’s come in his overall career and how he’s developed his stuff, he’s one of those prospects that I think it would be dumb to bet against. The more I looked at him, the more he made a sort of sense.

  3. jordan on February 26th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Man, what cliff did Halman fall off?

  4. Mike Snow on February 26th, 2010 3:25 pm

    The same one he fell off before? That being said, Baseball America did still keep Halman at #8 on their list.

  5. Jay Yencich on February 26th, 2010 3:27 pm

    Man, what cliff did Halman fall off?

    The mental/emotional one. There was no change in his conditioning or abilities that I heard mentioned. He just started out bad in the WBC and lost confidence to the degree where he stayed bad for much of the season as he started to overcompensate. They’ve been trying to fix this throughout the offseason. Keep in mind that he was by a wide margin the most talented player in the Netherlands for a while, so it’s only in the U.S. that he’s had to deal with serious adversity, and his responses to it have been not so good starting out.

  6. coasty141 on February 26th, 2010 4:42 pm

    Jay, I am crazy to think that this is a make or break year for Liddi? If he plays well he proves he wasn’t just a product of his home field and he can continue to progress as a legit prospect. If Liddi struggles and has to repeat Double A (as a 23 year old) he surely won’t justify being a top 10 prospect for the organization.

    I know thats a little harsh but it really seems like he’s going to boom or bust this year.

  7. thehemogoblin on February 26th, 2010 4:54 pm

    Marc Hulet is Canadian (look at his spelling of “defence,” for instance) and he has spent a lot of time covering the Blue Jays. That’s probably why Johermyn Chavez made the last spot in his list. He tends to take a lot of fliers there and he also uses the spot to talk about players that wouldn’t normally get brought up.

    Marc Hulet’s first ever post on Fangraphs.

  8. Jay Yencich on February 26th, 2010 5:12 pm

    I think “make or break year” is a term that’s bandied about a bit much. It’s an effort to make things more dramatic by making them binary. To sit around claiming “if this guy doesn’t hit at least .280/.350/.500 next year, he’s dead to me” seems a bit foolish, particularly under the circumstances. Liddi comes from a weak baseball background and was challenged early in his career with trying circumstances which he responded poorly to. The normal development curve doesn’t easily apply to his situation. It would be great if he did hit well in double-A this coming year, but if he didn’t, he’d be 22 for most of the ’11 season anyway and repeating the level wouldn’t kill him. He might drop out of the top ten in the process. That’s fine. Not everyone succeeds in their first go at double-A.

    And I knew Hulet was Canadian, hemo, but thanks anyway. The ten spot isn’t a bad place to take a flier on a guy.

  9. mike on February 26th, 2010 5:32 pm

    I bet Hulet over-rates Tug Hulett.

  10. dchappelle on February 26th, 2010 7:51 pm

    Good stuff Jay, although I’m still trying to figure out who Kant is and why we care about his apostrophes. :-)

  11. Hassleberry on February 27th, 2010 12:44 pm

    Will Halman ever make the club?

  12. joser on February 27th, 2010 3:10 pm

    Will Halman ever make the club?

    The magic prospect 8-ball says:
    Outlook hazy. Ask again later

  13. jordan on February 27th, 2010 3:22 pm

    Halman is still a freak athlete, and it is still possible for him to turn it around and get back on track, but it is also still possible that he continues to dig himself into a deeper hole, and we never hear about him again.

  14. Jay Yencich on February 28th, 2010 11:47 am

    I bet Hulet over-rates Tug Hulett.

    (scattered applause) He’ll be here until at least April, ladies and gents.

    Good stuff Jay, although I’m still trying to figure out who Kant is and why we care about his apostrophes. :-)

    So it doesn’t seem like a non sequitur, dchappelle is referring to another post I did recently.

    As for Kant… Immanuel Kant was a small man who lived such a regimented life that neighbors in Königsberg would often set their clocks to his passing by on daily walks. He also insisted that his clothes be removed in a particular order, among other things, and drove more than one of his servants into alcoholism. He taught geography at the University of Königsberg for a time despite never traveling far enough outside of the town to even reach the sea. Late in his life, he suffered a stroke after eating too much of his favorite cheese on his birthday. That’s roughly what you should know about him.

    Will Halman ever make the club?

    If this were a simple matter of coaching him to not swing at bad pitches or his receptiveness to said coaching, that would be one thing. Halman on some level knows better than to do such things, but as he begins to slump, he gets desperate and will start swinging at everything, which only exacerbates things. The opposite is also true in that when he’s on and doing well he’s quite likely to continue doing so.

    The goal is to get him to develop the mental fortitude to ride out those slumps and adapt to circumstances rather than overcompensate to his own detriment. There’s no easy timetable on developing that sort of thing. All I can really say on the matter is that he has two more option years to figure it out.

  15. JH on February 28th, 2010 2:57 pm

    I’m not sure saying that Halman has simply responded poorly to being challenged is entirely fair. 2009 was an absolute fiasco and there was clearly something very wrong, but let’s not forget that Halman was sent down after a disastrous first half of the 2007 season, and rather than pout he responded by going nuts on the Northwest League. It would be foolish to be a full-fledged believer in his chances at this point, but there’s still a pretty special combination of tools there and he has a few more years to put everything together.

    I put the odds of him receiving at least a few major league at-bats as pretty high, while the chances of him catching on as a regular are pretty slim, but I’m not ready to give up hope.

  16. henryv on February 28th, 2010 3:05 pm

    Only 1 left on the listof the M’s 7 top hitting prospects (the 7 on this list, at least).

    That’s a little bothersome to me, seeing as how this team has very little young depth at the MLB level. Especially in terms of power hitting.

  17. The Ancient Mariner on February 28th, 2010 3:51 pm

    Jay, I think we share a common opinion of Kant’s philosophy, too. :)

    henryv, given that the current lineup tilts lefty, that besides this list, our top prospect also bats lefty, and especially that if Ackley ends up playing 2B, he’ll give us a lefty bat at a position where there are few, I wouldn’t worry too much.

  18. Jay Yencich on February 28th, 2010 4:51 pm

    I put the odds of him receiving at least a few major league at-bats as pretty high, while the chances of him catching on as a regular are pretty slim, but I’m not ready to give up hope.

    I’ve become more of a doubter now that it’s happened twice. The first time, okay, everyone has rough stretches, but the second? And after he had already exhibited some success at the level? It doesn’t inspire confidence. I’m more positive by virtue of the fact that the M’s have singled him out for extra help in this area, which is something I can’t really imagine the previous administration doing, but I also have no idea how effective it will be.

    Only 1 left on the listof the M’s 7 top hitting prospects (the 7 on this list, at least).

    That’s a little bothersome to me, seeing as how this team has very little young depth at the MLB level. Especially in terms of power hitting.

    I may be interpreting this a bit off, but if you’re referring to left-handed hitters, Noriega is a switch at least, and there’s Ackley to consider too. The M’s showed some preference for left-handed and switch-hitting bats in this past draft. Power hitters… well, that will come.

    If that’s not it, disregard.

  19. jwgrandsalami on February 28th, 2010 8:22 pm

    [off-topic, please use the link button, and I'm not sure it's appropriate to help people undercut Maple Street Press]

  20. SonOfZavaras on March 1st, 2010 1:02 pm

    Excellent work, Jay.

    One of the things I’m looking forward to most in this coming 2010 season is the constant great posting on ‘spects and insight on the farm from you.

    But in terms of blue-chip pitching, the ol’ ranch is a little on the “Oy vey” side, wouldn’t you say?

    What depth we possessed has been gutted pretty thoroughly. Lorin, Pribanic, Adcock, Aumont, Ramirez, among others…all gone. Now, none of those were absolute can’t-miss sorts…but one or two were likely to work out as major-leaguers, maybe more.

    Probably wishful thinking on my part, Jay…but have you looked into any crystal balls and heard/seen anything to make you think any player in the M’s system is ready to make a quantum leap forward as a prospect?

  21. Jay Yencich on March 1st, 2010 1:45 pm

    Excellent work, Jay.

    One of the things I’m looking forward to most in this coming 2010 season is the constant great posting on ’spects and insight on the farm from you.

    …..

    Probably wishful thinking on my part, Jay…but have you looked into any crystal balls and heard/seen anything to make you think any player in the M’s system is ready to make a quantum leap forward as a prospect?

    Thanks!

    As for the possible breakout candidates, that’s something we’re kicking around in the USSM labs at the moment (no clear timetable just yet). I don’t know how many are going to make that leap into blue chip status, because so few do in the first place, but prospectdom, certainly.

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