Projections, Prospects and Assorted Links
1: Today saw the release of Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 PECOTA forecasts, which followed close on the heels of an update to the CAIRO forecast I mentioned earlier (hat tip: Matthew Carruth). As you’d suspect, both are pretty much as bleak as the ZiPS forecast that preceded them. If you use any projection system based on past performance, the M’s are going to look fairly bad. With a stiff upper lip and a dogged optimism, any fan can probably fill in the reasons to expect the team to best these forecasts – Gutierrez is healthy again! Smoak’s hand has healed! Dustin Ackley is better than these systems think! But the cold gruel of stats and regression (it’s basically only M’s fans that actively root for regression to the mean) make for some depressing reading – CAIRO’s playoff odds have the M’s at 2.4% assuming 2 wild cards (1.4% with 1), or about half what it was before the M’s pulled the trigger on the Montero/Pineda trade.
It’s interesting to look at the guys the systems disagree on, as one vote of confidence is better than none (sorry, Carlos Peguero). PECOTA thinks a tiny bit more of Mike Carp, Wily Mo Pena, Caspar Wells, Jesus Montero and the recently DFAd Mike Wilson, whereas CAIRO’s slightly better for Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Ichiro. Justin Smoak and Chone Figgins – two of the more difficult M’s to project – look just about identical under both systems, which is a bit surprising given the methodology changes in PECOTA. There really aren’t any cases where the forecasts are wildly different; no one foresees a breakout season from anyone, because, fundamentally, that’s not what these systems do. If the M’s are going to be average-y, let alone compete, they’re going to have to blow their projections out of the water. That’s not news to anyone reading this. While it’s ridiculous to expect that 10-15 guys blow past their projections, the line-up does look quite a bit different if 2 – say, Smoak and Ackley – put up wOBAs in the .350-.380 range. It’s not enough to catch the Rangers/Angels, but it would be a welcome sign that the M’s have something to build on.
2: Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet released his list of the top 15 M’s prospects today, featuring the same top 5 (in a slightly different order) as Conor’s list for Baseball America and John Sickels list at MinorLeagueBall. Kevin Goldstein undoubtedly would’ve had the same top 5 if he knew that Jesus Montero would one day play for Seattle. The only contrarion in Prospect Land is Jason Parks, who slots Guillermo Pimentel ahead of Nick Franklin at #5.
Each list shows a bit more variation in the 5th-10th spots, as the differing weight each analyst puts on tools versus polish, ceiling versus risk come into play. My initial reactions – these lists are probably a bit bearish on:
i) Erasmo Ramirez, who’s young, has good command, and has more velo/stuff than I’d been lead to believe. I’d suspect that lists like these undervalue guys who are both close to the majors and have a mid- to back-of-the-rotation ceiling, but I could be wrong. No, he doesn’t throw as hard as Chance Ruffin, but he doesn’t need to in order to add more overall value. This may be a case where fantasy value spills over into prospect lists, which would explain Ruffin’s placement on virtually every list.
ii) Alex Liddi, who’s only 23 and put up an above average wOBA for his league/park while playing better than advertised defense at the hot corner (though that’s probably not a very high bar). He’s got huge contact issues, he’s not a gold glover, and it’s not clear he’ll start at 3B for Tacoma in 2012, so I’d listen to an argument that has Francisco Martinez higher. But he wasn’t included in Hulet’s top 15, and didn’t crack the top 10 for BA or BP. Sickels has him 8th which seems fair.
3: Keith Law’s ranking of each MLB’s teams farm system came out today on ESPN insider. The M’s came in at #11, while the Padres finished 1st (which isn’t a bad consolation prize after losing Jed Hoyer to the Cubs and Chris Gwynn to the M’s – two guys who helped make the Pads system what it is). The M’s grade a bit lower than the Rangers and the newly-restocked Athletics, but higher than the Angels.
John Sickels’ rankings have the M’s at #4 overall, still below the Rangers, but ahead of the A’s. Any way you look at it, the Rangers are still probably the class of the AL West thanks to SS Jurickson Profar, RHP Miguel De Los Santos, LHP Martin Perez and, depending on how you want to treat him, Yu Darvish. That the M’s are just a step behind (and could eliminate the gap entirely this year) says a lot about how strong the M’s system is. The team’s that’s probably the hardest to get a handle on is the A’s. What does Jarrod Parker’s injury do to your estimation of his ceiling? Can Tom Milone get MLB hitters out, or is this another Yusmeiro Petit situation, where a guy can put up video-game numbers without plus stuff in the minors only to struggle at the major league level? Is Robbie Cowgill a starting CF or a fourth outfielder pressed into duty on a bad club?
4: I’ve technically already linked it in this sprawling post, but Mike Curto’s got a great post up on the corner IF possibilities in Seattle and Tacoma here.
5: Our fearless leader breaks down the 10 worst moves of the offseason at Fangraphs. Sure, I’ve got my share of issues with the current front office, but it says something that I no longer fear articles like this. I’m looking for schadenfreude, and this piece delivers.