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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Francisco Mejia leads top catching prospects

The Top 10
1. Francisco Mejia, Indians
2. Carson Kelly, Cardinals
3. Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers
4. Sean Murphy, Athletics
5. Jake Rogers, Tigers
6. Jorge Alfaro, Phillies
7. Chance Sisco, Orioles
8. Danny Jansen, Blue Jays
9. Zack Collins, White Sox
10. Victor Caratini, Cubs

Jim Furtado Posted: January 18, 2018 at 08:29 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: prospects

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   1. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: January 18, 2018 at 09:07 AM (#5608599)
I don't know why but I feel like Kelly and Sisco have been top prospects forever.
   2. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: January 18, 2018 at 09:42 AM (#5608619)
Because they have been -- I'd put Alfaro in that same group.
   3. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:05 AM (#5608635)
What was the Bill James line..."He's a perennial prospect, which is a subtle distinction from being no prospect at all."
   4. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5608636)
From the scroll-down piece on Caratini:

Maddon impressed by youngster's defensive skills in 2017 debut

This impressedness was not particularly apparent to those of us following the 2017 Cubs.
   5. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5608638)
This impressedness was not particularly apparent to those of us following the 2017 Cubs.


It impressed him so much that it shocked him into forgetting his name when filling out the lineup card.
   6. salvomania Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:33 AM (#5608654)
I think the Cardinals' Andrew Knizner may be as good a catching prospect as Carson Kelly... they're both entering their age-23 season and had similar offensive seasons in the minors in 2017, Kelly at AAA and Knizner at AA.

Kelly was up with the Cardinals for a bit last year and to my eye looked as underwhelming at the plate as his line (.174/.240/.217, OPS+ of 23) suggests, and maybe that's coloring my view when I read about the converted third-baseman Knizner...

Here's A.E. Schafer writing in Viva El Birdos, after Knizner hit .358/.403/.537 in the AFL this year:
But Knizner is also only about six months younger than Carson Kelly, so it’s not as if one is a far-off dream and the other is right here, major league aged and major league ready. They’ll both play most of 2018 at 23 years old. Knizer topped out at Double A this past season, Kelly played mostly at Triple A. They’re not that far apart.

And with the bat? Carson Kelly put up a Triple A wRC+ of 120 at age 22; Knizner posted a 133 wRC+ one level lower and six months younger. My point is, Carson Kelly is the stronger prospect, yes, by dint of his superior defensive reputation. But the difference is not miles, maybe not even yards.
   7. bfan Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5608663)
And just because it never gets tired in the telling: Caratini was traded to the Cubs by Frank Wren in a 2014 trade deadline deal for a team (Braves) that had virtually no chance of making the play-offs, for a hitter (Bonifacio) who could not hit (.553 OPS for the Braves that year) and a LHP pitcher (Russell) who could not get out left-handers. For all of those out there constantly complaining about teams "not trying to win", if that kind of deal is trying to win (trading future value for present value), then no thank-you, don't try. The same applies for handing out big 5 year contracts to guys who will be dreck in the last 2 years of the deal, for 3 years of "good" that will turn 72 win teams into 75 win teams.
   8. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:55 AM (#5608677)
And just because it never gets tired in the telling: Caratini was traded to the Cubs by Frank Wren in a 2014 trade deadline deal for a team (Braves) that had virtually no chance of making the play-offs, for a hitter (Bonifacio) who could not hit (.553 OPS for the Braves that year) and a LHP pitcher (Russell) who could not get out left-handers.

Thought they got Caratini in the Paul Maholm trade (not that that's all that much better, but Maholm was at least kind of useful). EDIT: Dangit, you're right. Maholm was the chit for them to acquire Arodys Vizcaino in 2012. (They later traded Vizcaino back to get Tommy La Stella.)

Glad to know I share your impression of Russell. (The Cubs' short-lived experiment of using him as a starter a few years back was fun...)
   9. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: January 18, 2018 at 10:58 AM (#5608681)
In fairness to Wren - I was surprised Russell suddenly flamed out so completely and totally like he did. His K rates were never that great, but he seemed like he was in store for a decent career in the bullpen. He was also miscast as a LOOGY - his career splits are heavily influenced by a bizarre 2013, when he DID look like a LOOGY, but other than than - he didn't look like a LOOGY.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5608689)
Maddon impressed by youngster's defensive skills in 2017 debut

This impressedness was not particularly apparent to those of us following the 2017 Cubs.

Yeah - I'd say that sentence is about enough to discredit the entire article. That's just absurd.
   11. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:08 AM (#5608697)
In fairness to Wren - I was surprised Russell suddenly flamed out so completely and totally like he did.

I wasn't. He sucked. (Yes, that's my in-depth "thinking fan" analysis.)

Gotta say, re bfan's comment: watching the Cubs' brass consistently and effectively operate on the other side of that future value/present value equation -- and the prospect of a payoff for the team down the line -- was the only thing that made watching the Cubs during that 2012-13 stretch tolerable. They did a great job of signing guys off the scrap heap and turning them into actual future value at the deadline, including scrubs like Bonifacio and mediocrities like Feldman and guys like Dempster having career years. (Just those three guys netted Caratini, Arrieta, Strop and Hendricks.)
   12. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:13 AM (#5608705)
I'm not entirely convinced that Mejia will stay behind the plate. Gomes and Perez are both locked down through 2019 and both have club options for 2020 and 2021. Cleveland could trade a catcher, of course, but they've also been trying Mejia at third base. It's been disastrous, by all accounts. Carlos Santana-bad. But they wouldn't have even tried if they were completely committed to him as a catcher.

I wouldn't be surprised if they spent the first half of 2018 trying Mejia at 1B/LF/RF in Columbus. It's just a hunch. I could be wrong.
   13. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:18 AM (#5608710)
Isn't Yan Gomes signed to a particularly long deal? IIRC, it's not big money -- something like a bunch of 5/5/5/7/etc dollars -- but still probably not too enticing.

I wasn't. He sucked. (Yes, that's my in-depth "thinking fan" analysis.)


Well, I've always been prone to the idea of "hang out with ugly people to look beautiful" idea... He was pitching on a staff with Rafael Dolis, Casey Coleman, Manny Corpas, etc...
   14. Ziggy's screen name Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:36 AM (#5608747)
IIRC Mejia is supposed to have a terrific arm. He'd be wasted at 1B. I could see RF, but man his bat would be nice behind the plate. He would be pretty ordinary as an outfielder. ZiPS has him at 333/432 for next season.
   15. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5608753)
Gomes is signed for ~$6M in 2018 and $7M in 2019. It's not enough to make him completely worthless in trade, but it definitely limits potential landing places. Perez's contract is small enough (4/$9 with a couple cheap club buyouts afterwards) that they should be able to move him fairly easily if they decide Mejia stays behind the plate.

For what it's worth, I was wrong above in #12. Perez is locked in through 2020 with two club options. Gomes is signed through 2019 with two club options.

edit to add: Mejia's arm is said to be fantastic, yes. I've seen reports that he doesn't have enough speed to play right field, but goodness. Matt Stairs played almost 800 games in the outfield. That guy was glacial.
   16. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: January 18, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5608766)
If Mejia's arm is fantastic - what's the concern? Pop times? Sanchezian problems catching the ball? Poor framing skills?

   17. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 12:10 PM (#5608793)
Well, I've always been prone to the idea of "hang out with ugly people to look beautiful" idea... He was pitching on a staff with Rafael Dolis, Casey Coleman, Manny Corpas, etc...

Sweet baby Jesus, those teams were terrible.
   18. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5608797)
Ha---just looked up Russell's 2011 logs, as that's the year he made 5 starts. Game scores in those starts: 24, 31, 37, 37, and 37. Well, I guess he was consistent.

He allowed 19 ER in 16.3 innings as a starter (10.47 ERA) with 7 home runs allowed. He allowed 3 homers in 4 innings in back-to-back starts. That's about how I remember it...

   19. Spahn Insane Posted: January 18, 2018 at 12:33 PM (#5608810)
Any Tribe fans care to weigh in on the team's thought process regarding their catchers? I've always thought Perez and Gomes were strange guys to lock up for as long as they are, particularly if they have a stud catching prospect in the pipeline (if they don't think Mejia's a catcher longterm, that explains why they're not planning on giving him the spot, but that still doesn't explain locking up two guys who at least to my eyes aren't very good).

EDIT: I guess Gomes showed enough promise with the bat early on to make a cheapish long term deal a reasonable risk even if it hasn't worked out, but I don't get the Perez signing (and I'm not sure I'd expect much from Gomes going forward).
   20. PreservedFish Posted: January 18, 2018 at 12:35 PM (#5608811)
I'm not entirely convinced that Mejia will stay behind the plate. Gomes and Perez are both...


mediocre baseball players?

Also, the Tribe currently has an embarrassment of riches at 3B in MVP candidate Jose Ramirez and fascinating older prospect Yandy Diaz.
   21. catomi01 Posted: January 18, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5608880)
I raised this in another thread that it seems like the Indians have always been a little quick to move good hitting catchers off of catcher (at least quicker than others) - citing Santana and Victor Martinez - but someone else pointed out that there were some pretty sound reasons for doing so...but adding Mejia to that list, I think it at least shows they might be valuing catcher D more so than other teams might - and are willing to sacrifice a decent amount on the other side of the ball to keep good glove guys in the lineup. I think both ideas have merit - but as a Yankee fan, as frustrating as guys like Posada and Sanchez can be behind the plate to watch sometimes, its really hard to say they would be (would have been) better teams with those guys DH'ing/1B and a weak bat catching.
   22. tolbuck Posted: January 18, 2018 at 02:38 PM (#5608928)
I raised this in another thread that it seems like the Indians have always been a little quick to move good hitting catchers off of catcher (at least quicker than others) - citing Santana and Victor Martinez - but someone else pointed out that there were some pretty sound reasons for doing so...but adding Mejia to that list, I think it at least shows they might be valuing catcher D more so than other teams might - and are willing to sacrifice a decent amount on the other side of the ball to keep good glove guys in the lineup. I think both ideas have merit - but as a Yankee fan, as frustrating as guys like Posada and Sanchez can be behind the plate to watch sometimes, its really hard to say they would be (would have been) better teams with those guys DH'ing/1B and a weak bat catching.

I think you are overthinking this. The Indians began moving Santana and Martinez due to injuries. Martinez began to play some at 1B in '06, but that was mainly to keep his bat in the line up. The usage pattern looks a lot like Posey's when the Giants began to use him at 1B. Then Martinez missed a good chunk of the '08 season, and when he returned in '09 the Indians accelerated his transition. Santana is more cut and dried. He was forced to move from behind the plate due to concussions.

My opinion-the Tribe's experiences with Santana and Martinez are what is behind their playing Mejia at different positions. They are looking for ways to keep his bat in the line up, and they looking for a backup plan in case injuries force him from behind the plate. It is better if they figure out where else he can play now rather than later.
   23. Stevey Posted: January 18, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5608985)
I've always thought Perez and Gomes were strange guys to lock up for as long as they are, particularly if they have a stud catching prospect in the pipeline


As you mentioned, Gomes looked much better when he was signed, and at that point Mejia had only just finished rookie ball. Perez is interesting though. He had a bout with Bell's Palsy in the minors which gave his development a serious hit, but I think now that he's well past that, they like him more than Gomes. His defense is better than Gomes, and the gap seems to be widening, and now Steamer projects him to outhit Gomes as well, though within the margin for error. Down the stretch in September, Perez got more starts than Gomes, and then caught four of the five playoff games, including Kluber's game five, after Gomes had been Kluber's catcher all year. I think they'd prefer to go forward with Perez over Gomes, which is why the former was given a lockup deal, but the problem is that I can't see anyone taking that Gomes contract off their hands.

Either way, they love the defense from both enough that even if Mejia was able to stick as a regular behind the plate, whoever stays is going to get plenty of playing time, and as has been said, they'll want to figure out how else to get Mejia's bat in the lineup. Steamer thinks that Perez is worth just over two wins if was a 125 games-a-year catcher. I believe Dan said the Indians are the next one out of the chute for ZiPS, so we'll see how Perez is pegged there shortly.

I do wonder how big of a corner bat they could have gotten for Mejia this offseason to fill a much more pressing need.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: January 18, 2018 at 04:01 PM (#5609002)
#2, #3: I would be less worried about this for catchers. They seem to take longer to develop and reach the majors, probably for defensive development reasons ... or because they have to devote so much time to defensive development that the bat takes a bit more time to develop. If they impressed enough at 21 or 22 to make a prospect list, that's probably still a good sign even if they're still there at 23-24.

#4, #5: It's spelled Caratini but it's pronounced Happ.

#7: The counterpoint is it's not clear yet that the Braves actually gave up any value. It's been over three years since that trade and Caratini has done nothing in the majors and isn't expected to do anything this year. His defense is still in question.

#7 and others: And god only knows what your complaint about Russell is ... in 24 innings for the Braves, he had a WHIP just over 1, gave up 0 HR and had a 163 ERA+. Opposing batters hit 233/266/256 against him. He inherited 7 runners and let just 1 score. All of that despite having the platoon advantage in just 31% of his BF. You not only got the 24 best innings of Russell's career, you got 24 innings of great relief.

So indeed the trade of the valuable Caratini for the laughably ineffective Russell was a bad one -- but it exists only in the imagination of you ... and apparently some Cub fans.

   25. Walt Davis Posted: January 18, 2018 at 04:50 PM (#5609051)
Addendum ... Russell was generally terrible against LHP and was particularly bad in 2014 ... but not for the Braves. With the Braves, LHB hit 259/333/296 against him with 1 double in 27 AB.

It is true that he gave up some hits to LHB early in his Braves stint and was part of a couple of Braves pen meltdowns and the Braves shifted him towards lower-leverage usage. In the 11th against the Nats, he did walk Harper with 1 out and 2 on ... but he didn't put the two on nor was he responsible for the 2 hits that followed that scored all the runs. His next outing, down 2 to the Dodgers, he came on with 1 out and 2 on and gave up a hit to Crawford ... but again, he didn't put on the two guys and wasn't responsible for the two walks, error, two WPs and PB that turned the inning into a laugher.

From that point on he put up a 1.29 ERA with a line of 197/218/211 for the Braves. But yes, early in his Braves career, in 3 straight appearances he gave up a double to Cano, a walk to Harper and a single to Crawford and all three eventually scored although only Cano is 100% his fault. That's a bad early impression and a single to Crawford is kinda embarrassing but Cano and Harper are no slouches.
   26. bfan Posted: January 18, 2018 at 05:29 PM (#5609072)
and I suppose that although Bonifacio had an OPS of .553 for the Braves, he was robbed of several base hits and did have a game winning sacrifice...

This really misses the more important point, which is the Braves gave up a 2nd round draft choice that was performing quite well in MiLB,as a 20 year old in A ball (and has continued to perform quite well, right up the pyramid) for meaningless roster enhancement (that I would say was in fact roster detriment, but you disagree). They were at that point under .500 and had by fangraphs estimate the hardest schedule left in the league (maybe in the entire majors-that detail escapes me, now).

The bad roster cubs traded the worst 2 players on their MLB roster for a low minors kid who by all accounts had talent. The braves created room on their roster for the worst 2 players from an inferior team, at the cost of a young prospect who at that point was succeeding. If you want to defend that, fine. We just come out on different ends of that discussion.

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