’13 40-Man Preview Extravaganza
We’re presently in one of the offseason doldrums that precedes the winter meetings, a time of frenzied anticipation when we pretend as though things are going to happen and then they usually don’t. That means it’s time for me to step in and talk a bit about other forms of anticipation, namely prospects, and who we might see get added to the 40-man in preparation for the deadline, which is I think a week from now. Given that the M’s keep promoting these guys, I don’t know that it’s more or less interesting, given the obscurity of the players in the eyes of most.
The name of the game this year is last year’s game’s name moved up a digit: ’09 high school draftees and early international signings and ’10 college draftees need to be on the 40-man lest they be kidnapped by other organizations. The international portion of this is always the most dicey as players can “debut” in instructs the year they sign, but as I’m not seeing that from the media guide, I’m guessing that Guillermo Pimentel and Alexy Palma are not on the list, which is great because I don’t want to write about them now, or unless they’re doing things worth writing about. All advanced metrics are courtesy of StatCorner, your Corner for Stats (and nB%, if unfamiliar, is unintentional walks plus HBP)
Among names I won’t touch on, with brief reasons why: Steve Baron (LOL), Ramon Morla (bad plate discipline, hasn’t shown power regularly), Jordy Lara (Morla minus power outburst and experience), Nate Tenbrink (not the same since his concussion), Scott Savastano (you all know why), Marcus Littlewood (basically coaching material), Isliexel Gonzalez (no proper names in Scrabble), Jonathan Arias (walks too many, dinger-prone), Jimmy Gillheeney (suspect K-rates and stuff), Jandy Sena (rather unpolished), Mike Wilson (played for the Padres last year and is not a Mariner anymore), Andrew Carraway (lost his command), Richard Vargas (too injured/unpolished), George Mieses and Rigoberto Garcia (not-good command), Jose Valdivia (both and a limited track record), Jesus Ugueto (limited track record, maybe a tweener) Kevin Rivers (despite his lack of home/road splits, old and needs to do something outside the Cal League), Seon-gi Kim (never had a BB/9 under 3.5 in a full season), Jose Flores (less relevant than other Jose Floreses), either of the Pereiras (laughably bad command), and Joe Dunigan (injured and hasn’t hit for average since 2009, which was the only time he did it). I would like to write about Leury Bonilla, but he’s still just that guy that sometimes plays all nine positions. I could blurb even more names and should not be tempted to do so. If I did not blurb your offspring, friend, or relation, I apologize. I’m probably just jealous or something?
RHP Logan Bawcom, 6’2″, 220 lbs, 11/2/1988
AAA: 1-4, 51 G, 4.38 tRA (3.91 ERA) in 65.0 IP, 56 H (4 HR), 24 R (21 ER), 64/24 K/BB (24.1 K%, 9.7 nB%)
Pros: Cheap bullpen arm, one of the lowest walk-rates of his career, few split issues, guest blogger for Shannon Drayer
Cons: Name seems pun-able, K-rate also dropped
It’s been a trend that the second piece of the trade ends up doing the most for us. Fister brought Wells, but it’s Furbush who is still around. Ichiro netted us D.J. Mitchell, a probable starter whom we DFA’d, but Farquhar is now our closer. League brought Landry, but Bawcom seems more interesting right now. Caveat: he’s changed a bit since arriving. The stuff is probably the same, low-90s heat, slider, but how he’s using it isn’t the same as it once was. He’s become more contact oriented and while the contact seems as hard as ever (Bawcom doesn’t give up dingers), he’s been more into fly balls lately whereas his career had him drawing grounders. So, we’ve solved one problem (walks) at the hazard of maybe creating two more (fewer Ks, more flies)? Mariners? Mariners.
RF Jabari Blash, R/R, 6’5″, 225 lbs, 7/4/1989
A+: 80 G, 332 PA (283 AB), 42 R, 73 H, 16 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 85/40 K/BB, .396wOBA (.258/.358/.505)
AA: 29 G, 120 PA (97 AB), 13 R, 30 H, 3 2B, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 28/20 K/BB, .480 wOBA (.309/.442/.619)
Pros: His name is “Jabari Blash,” power, good arm, drew walks in double-A, modest improvement in K%
Cons: Wildly inconsistent, hitters with this profile always draw more walks in double-A, still Ks ~25%
The past few seasons we’ve picked up or added to the 40-man every live-bodied outfielder that has shown the faintest glimmer of promise (hello, Travis Witherspoon). Much of that time, that’s been fata morgana. Blash seems to be more illusion than reality right now, which is a shame because those tools seem very real indeed. My criticisms are the usual on this front. At home in the Cal League, he hit .278/.359/.604. On the road, .237/.358/.403. He hit .333/.389/.833 in April (54 PA) and later .211/.324/.300 in July (105 PA). His walk rate in High Desert overall was worse than it was in Clinton by nearly a full percentage point and his strikeout tendencies were curbed more strongly by double-A than anything else. I’ve seen a lot of hitters with his profile suddenly gain some semblance of plate discipline in double-A and then peter out into nothing again, so I think it’s mostly a function of pitcher quality. To summarize: neat player, but I don’t think his skills have advanced enough to warrant us protecting him or any other team taking him for any reason other than to break up our Jabari monopoly.
RHP Tyler Burgoon, 5’10″, 175 lbs, 8/10/1990
AA: 4-3, 36 G, 4.07 tRA (3.58 ERA) in 50.1 IP, 45 H (6 HR), 22 R (20 ER), 65/23 K/BB (31.5 K%, 10.2 nB%)
Pros: Hard-thrower, career K% of 28.2 in full-season ball (29.9% this year, adding in two Tacoma outings)
Cons: The opposite of tall (baseball relative), gross walk rate, 1.096 OPS against lefties this year
‘Goon, at various points in time, has been mentioned in the same breath as Capps, Pryor, and Carson Smith, though he’s been slower to come along than any of them and has never gotten much love from the scouting community. I could joke around and say that it’s because he’s under six feet tall, but he also doesn’t have the raw velocity of any of those guys and tends to sit a few mph lower. The slider is awesome. He has that going for him. But increasingly it’s looking like he might need a third pitch because he’s shown a definite trend of getting hit worse by LHB. Do you protect him knowing that he might be potential ROOGY, or no? On one hand, it might be valuable in the short-term with Pryor and Capps both having setbacks. On the other, Dominic Leone and Carson Smith have shown better stuff.
1B Ji-man Choi, L/R, 6’1″, 225 lbs, 5/19/1991
A+: 48 G, 211 PA (181 AB), 34 R, 61 H, 24 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 33/27 K/BB, .450 wOBA (.337/.427/.619)
AA: 61 G, 236 PA (198 AB), 21 R, 53 H, 10 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 28/32 K/BB, .379 wOBA (.268/.377/.485)
AAA: 13 G, 52 PA (45 AB), 9 R, 11 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7/4 K/BB, .335 wOBA (.244/.333/.422)
Pros: Professional hitter who provides quality at-bats, has adapted well despite being promoted aggressively
Cons: Non-traditional offensive profile for his position [assuming third is not an option], sketchy health record
As a charter member of the J-MC Fan Club, this will be tricky for me. Choi was a top prep third baseman in Korea who donned catcher’s gear after turning pro. He won MVP his first year in the AZL and nearly led the league in all the slash categories. Awesome, initially, but his back couldn’t handle the strain of catching and he was on the DL for the next year, eventually moving to first just to keep healthy. With ~150 PAs in the AZL under his belt (and 50 more in the Cal League), he went to Clinton in late May 2012 and handled himself there. This past year, he punched cards on three more minor league levels and kept hitting after ~a month of adjustment time. Nevertheless, some scouts dislike him because he doesn’t have big time power. Talent evaluators love it when you can get power from non-traditional position. Provide them with average-ish power from a traditional power position and they’re less jazzed to see whomever you’re talking about. I speculate that his ceiling (emphasis: CEILING) would look approximately like John Olerud, maybe with more power and almost certainly with fewer walks though a not-insignificant number of walks on the whole. He’ll also be worse with the glove and might not lead the league in hitting. Most first basemen have been in that company. It’s a profile that’s interesting enough for me, given that 40+ HR first baseman are rare and it’s an accomplishment to top thirty dingers these days, but hey, I’m not in charge or anything.
OF James Jones, L/L, 6’4″, 195 lbs, 9/24/1988
AA: 101 G, 405 PA (363 AB), 44 R, 100 H, 14 2B, 10 3B, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 72/40 K/BB, .358 wOBA (.275/.347/.419)
Pros: Ks dropped this year, improved stolen base efficiency over last year, was not horrible in April
Cons: Power numbers took a hit on leaving the Cal League, was mostly a RF last year, sucked in May instead
I’ve been preparing eulogies for Jones’ life as a hitter pretty much every May now and he keeps hitting competently, so now I think I have positioned him in a different space. He hits well, but he probably won’t hit well enough considering he’s a tweener outfielder. The speed is probably not quite there to play center (the M’s have never been eager to try), but he doesn’t have the raw power to be good at the corners either. So the good news is that maybe James Jones won’t have to be a pitcher after all and the bad news is he’s looking sort of like a triple-A role player. That’s how it stands right now at least. There are still enough tools there to think that he might turn into more, but without clear signs of it, he’s an unnecessary gamble.
UT Ty Kelly, S/R, 6’0, 185 lbs, 7/20/1988
AA: 72 G, 343 PA (283 AB), 51 R, 80 H, 21 2B, 2 3B, HR, 47 RBI, 49/51 K/BB, .372 wOBA (.283/.389/.382)
AAA: 54 G, 252 PA (197 AB), 34 R, 63 H, 6 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 41/51 K/BB, .412 wOBA (320/.456/.406)
Pros: Take a look at those walk totals!, has hit for some average
Cons: Take a look at those HR totals!, strikes out a bit much, no defensive position
For those of you who checked out June 30th or earlier, Ty Kelly was what happened when the Mariners finally accepted the fact that they weren’t playing Eric Thames and shipped him off to Baltimore. Kelly can hit a bit, which endeared him to the Orioles, but he’s topped ten home runs all of once and hit thirty doubles once, narrowly missing it last year. This ties a lot of value to his ability to walk, which he does, thankfully, more than anyone in baseball it seems. Why he just stands there in that box and doesn’t swing unless it’s a strike, and sometimes even if it is. The bigger issue is that none of his defensive tools are any good, or so the reports go. The instincts are fine and permit him to make plays, but he can only pass at second and that’s as high defensively as he can go. This, in turn, pressures the bat more. So, offensive utility man who can only play so many places? I think the most interesting thing about him is that we traded for him, given that he doesn’t seem like he would be a darling of the scouting community. Nerds probably dig him.
RHP Stephen Kohlscheen, 6’6″, 225 lbs
AA: 7-3, 41 G, 2.77 tRA (2.30 ERA) in 66.2 IP, 47 H (6 HR), 18 R (17 ER), 85/25 K/BB (33.3 K%, 9.1 nB%)
Pros: Sustained last year’s K-rate while reducing his walks, pretty much stopped getting hit
Cons: More a results guy than a stuff guy though the stuff isn’t terrible, lefties hit him hard
I usually start these things out by writing down every name I can remember and cross-referencing with the media guide. Some names, I’m all too eager to write off, but I look up stats for everyone and Kohlscheen’s popped out as being better than I expected. Teams only hit .203/.280/.328 against him this past season. This was not something I had anticipated given that in 2012, he had more of everything than at any point previously in his career, which was not all High Desert though a fair amount of it was. What I see as two issues facing him is that 40% of his hits given up to lefties went for extras (and half of those left the park) and he’s competing on the depth charts with a lot of guys who have better stuff and are better regarded. For all I know, all systems have guys like these. For all I know, they don’t and as a redundant piece here, he’ll be picked up elsewhere and they’ll see what happens.
CF Leon Landry, L/R, 5’11″, 190 lbs, 9/20/1989
AA: 114 G, 460 PA (422 AB), 43 R, 91 H, 15 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 71/26 K/BB, .216/.262/.303 (.259 wOBA)
Pros: The Mariners saw reason to acquire him, charming nickname
Cons: They are the Mariners and he had a Mariners season
Outfielders who have little appreciable power to speak of need to do some combination of things in order to remain relevant. They can steal bases at a high level of efficiency, walk a lot, or hit for a really high average. Neon Leon has topped out at a 75.9% SB success rate, and twenty-eight in a season (70% in that case). His walk% has never entered double-digits. This year provided the worst average of his career, but he also had the worst BABIP of his career (.245, career .300). Part of this seems to be tied up in the fact that last year he beat out a lot of infield singles (.419 BABIP) and this year, not so much (.286). Turns out there was some value in that! The emergence of Abraham Almonte renders him somewhat irrelevant and the fact that the Mariners acquired Travis Witherspoon, who posted all around better numbers, means that I have no idea why I typed this all out.
LHP Brian Moran, 6’3″, 215 lbs
AAA: 2-5, 48 G, 3.04 tRA (3.45 ERA) in 62.2 IP, 70 H (4 HR), 28 R (24 ER), 85/20 K/BB (32.6 K%, 6.9 nB%)
Pros: Highest K-rate of his career
Cons: Still presumably has meh stuff, highest hit rate of his career, righties may have figured him out, we didn’t get to draft his brother
Brian Moran has been a pitcher of interest in the system for a while now. His stuff sucked relative to the baseball population, but he had a tricky arm angle and this was supposed to make him an awesome LOOGY. What instead happened for much of his career was that Moran killed it against both left-handers AND right-handers, something none of us really anticipated. Magic is usually a risky if not unsatisfying explanation for phenomena and this year, the magic may have gone away entirely. There’s some noise like the differential of nearly 100 points in BABIP and the fact that his swinging K percentage was higher against righties, but basically what we saw was a loss of twelve points in Ks and a doubled walk rate in his splits from left to right. Translated into friendlier terms, there was a 300 point OPS jump. Not cool. Maybe he figures it out. Maybe this is the wall?
1B Rich Poythress, 6’4, 250 lbs, 8/11/1987
AAA: 100 G, 416 PA (365 AB), 47 R, 92 H, 24 2B, 3B, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 77/46 K/BB, .351 wOBA (.252/.337/.430)
Pros: Has shown the ability to walk, hit for power, and limit Ks at various points in time, nickname is The Mayor
Cons: Has never done all those things at once, was never officially elected
If I were to pick a guy who, two-three years down the road, gets picked up by some random ML team in dire need of a first baseman and subsequently pulls a Bryan LaHair, it’d probably be Poythress. Two years ago, The Mayor ran a stupid 33/50 K/BB in 357 PAs for Jackson. It’s a thing sometimes when players have a plate discipline breakout, that they then have a power breakout later, but for Tacoma last year, his K/BB was more ordinary and even in the friendly confines of the PCL, he didn’t hit a lot of dingers. There are better 1B-types on present value in the system already and Poythress is exactly the type of player that would cause Dave to throw his hands up and question why the heck I wrote about him in the first place. I don’t really have much to say in my defense on that. He’s done some weird things. Baseball’s a weird sport in which weird things can eventually happen.
UT Stefen Romero, R/R, 6’2″, 220 lbs, 10/17/1988
AAA: 93 G, 411 PA (375 AB), 51 R, 104 H, 23 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 74 RBI, 87/28 K/BB, .344 wOBA (.277/.331/.448)
Pros: One of the best hitters in the system a year ago, walk rate improved 1.5%
Cons: It’s this year, K-rate also went up by 7.3%, unlikely to be a good defender anywhere his bat will play, sucked in the AFL initially
In 2012, Romero had a .401 wOBA in High Desert and reached .444 in Jackson. That was pretty impressive to us and likely would have been more exciting if we hadn’t recently seen one Vinnie Catricala put up similar numbers and then dig a hole in Tacoma. Romero had a .330 wOBA in the PCL this year. One wonders about trends. In this case, the drop wasn’t so precipitous: he went from way above average to just slightly above average. There isn’t a clear explanation as to why unless you want to bang the old drum of “he was switching defensive positions and stopped being good because he was preoccupied.” I don’t know if I like that drum so much, and the matter’s additionally complicated by the fact that he’s a bat-first guy who was moving down on the defensive spectrum. All in all, he’s in Tacoma now, and would have three option years to figure things out, so it doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to see if he can collect himself again and resume hitting. The AFL was supposed to be that place, but he wasn’t all that great there until the Fall-Star match-up, which he was selected without a clear rationale as to why. He hit two opposite field dingers there so hindsight’s looking pretty awesome now, so long as you’re selective about it.
LHP Jordan Shipers, 5’10″, 170 lbs, 6/27/1991
A: 4-3, 11 GS, 6.86 tRA (6.50 ERA) in 54.0 IP, 56 H (6 HR), 43 R (39 ER), 33/24 K/BB (13.8 K%, 12.5 nB%)
Pros: Showed good velocity and a promising three-pitch arsenal in high school
Cons: Limited returns, missed two months of the season, not tall
Back when it was okay to do so, the Mariners spent a mid-round pick on one Jordan Shipers and threw $800k at him to sign because it was conceivable that he could be one of the system’s best LH starters in short order. Since then, the M’s have signed three southpaws that I’d probably put ahead of him on this charts (well, four if you want to count Paxton, who signed later but was drafted higher). And Shipers? While he was expected to be raw, having pitched little in high school, he’s stayed that way so far. Early on it was walks and strikeouts, then pitching to contact, and now contact, walks, and few strikeouts and he wasn’t even entirely healthy last year. You can say “but High Desert” if you feel like it. I do often. And from there you have to determine what you make of the fact that his average against and home run rates weren’t out of line with career norms despite being in the Cal League and turning into a flyball pitcher. He’s still an unknown and it’s hard to see anyone picking him up.
RHP Forrest Snow, 6’6″, 225 lbs, 12/30/1988
AA: 1-5, 23 G (GS), 2.64 tRA (3.00 ERA) in 42.0 IP, 27 H (2 HR), 14 R, 41/11 K/BB (25.0 K%, 7.6 nB%)
AAA: 4-0, 19 G (GS), 4.84 tRA (2.92 ERA) in 40.0 IP, 34 H (5 HR), 13 R, 43/17 K/BB (23.3 K%, 10.7 nB%)
Pros: Local angle potentially translates to butts in seats, numbers made a major recovery this year
Cons: 50-game suspension (drug of abuse), likely a reliever amongst other shinier relief candidates
Initially, when writing these, I was going to list Snow among the also-rans until I looked up his numbers. Perception issues. We all remember Snow from his meteoric rise through the minors, arriving in Tacoma in his first full season. It was a great story about how some local kid and late-round pick was almost with the team as a valuable contributor. He spent the next year doubling his walk rate and we all chased after the next darting prospect butterfly because that’s what happens. This past season, still in the high minors, they had him in relief work and he resumed his 3:1 K:BB ratio, albeit with a bit more of each, and hitters couldn’t seem to do much against him. So he’s interesting again I think, except everything took a hit once he moved back to Tacoma. The suspension is an x factor in the whole valuation thing too.