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Thursday, November 03, 2022

NYT: These Guys Are Nasty’: Houston Thrives With Unexpected Stars [$]

Javier switched from outfielder to pitcher at 16, the age when many prospects from the Dominican Republic turn pro. He signed just before his 18th birthday for $10,000, the same bonus the Astros had given Framber Valdez, a Dominican left-hander, in 2015. The team gave a $100,000 bonus that year to José Urquidy, a right-hander from Mexico, and $20,000 in 2017 to Luis Garcia, a right-hander from Venezuela.

Add it all up and the Astros spent $140,000 to sign four pitchers from Latin America who combined to make 112 starts this season. None of the four were ever listed among the top 100 prospects by MLB.com.

“When I got here, I only knew what I’d read, that the system is a little empty,” said reliever Ryne Stanek, who signed with Houston before last season. “But then you see these guys come up and you’re like, ‘What do you mean, empty? These guys are nasty.’ Obviously the prospect rankings mean nothing when those guys weren’t prospects.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 03, 2022 at 10:59 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: November 03, 2022 at 02:20 PM (#6103953)
Prospect hounds ... is there anything in what Stanek says? Not that rankings are worthless but do they tend to have blind spots. I think (think, not collected evidence) that I've noticed lots of top Latin players who weren't ever listed. The guys who sign for the big bonuses get noticed right away of course but are guys (regardless of origin) that work their way through a system too often missed? There are lots of reasons that might be -- the info on HS/college players will be much better, the prospect writers get to see them in person younger, their networks among scouts are probably stronger among US-based scouts (does mlb.com or BA have Latin baseball specialists?), etc.

Because the Astros are a great example. It's not just those 4 guys. Altuve was never ranked -- granted, a meteoric rise and he did play in the Futures Game that year. Pena only made BA's top 100 (#72) prior to this season -- score one for BPro who had him in the top 100 back in 2020 and #16 this year ... but anti-kudos to mlb.com who still didn't have him top 100. All three did pick up on Alvarez but only after he'd played in two Futures Games (it took BA only one) and only to being a mid-100 prospect. Aledmys Diaz (8.5 WAR, 1.5 WAA) never made a list. Christian Vazquez (PR) never made a list.

Prospecting is obviously tough and very crapshooty but Valdez, Javier, Urquidy, Garcia, Altuve, Alvarez, Pena, Vazquez isn't just some "talent," that's the core of a playoff team. Put a bunch of average guys around that and you win 90 games.

Some obvious comparisons at the moment: Nola, Wheeler (several times), Gibson (a few times) but not Eflin, Robertson made the lists. Suarez and Dominguez did not. Schwarber, Castellanos (several), Bohm and Stott all made the list; Hoskins did not but was in the Futures Game. Schwarber, Castellanos, Wheeler were ranked pretty much from the moment they were drafted -- fair enough, Kyle and Zach were high 1st-rounders, Nick a late 1st-rounder and obviously those rankings weren't wrong. Still, Altuve, Pena, Alvarez, etc. have to get noticed, they don't enter ball with the draft scout's seal of approval already attached.

Do the Futures Game selectors do a better job? Maybe even more reflective of what teams really think of some of these guys -- which after all is what really matters for a promotion.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 03, 2022 at 04:22 PM (#6103977)
I think there is a blind spot. It does seem like MLB Pipeline heavily factors in draft position in their rankings, and international guys will get overlooked since most evaluators haven't seen them much til they reach High A or so and by then they could rise pretty quickly.
   3. The Duke Posted: November 03, 2022 at 04:35 PM (#6103982)
There's less and less blind spots than there used to be. There's too much info which can be shared quickly for people to stay off the radar screen. The exception would be the latam guys who toil for a few years offshore before they come to MILB. I don't know, but I'm guessing that is the case here.

What is amazing to me about prospects is how 30-60 games into MILB can prove out a draft pick. They have 2-6 years of data and really don't always know and then, boom, 60 games in, you tend to know whether it was a good pick or not. Makes me wonder why they don't have an MLB draft (in/out), lump them all into a short season league and THEN have the team draft after they've all played against one another. Money would get spent far more effectively.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: November 03, 2022 at 04:37 PM (#6103984)
Jeremy Pena was drafted out of the University of Maine.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 03, 2022 at 05:28 PM (#6103990)
I didn't realize until the World Series that he's Gerónimo Peña's kid.
   6. DCA Posted: November 03, 2022 at 07:06 PM (#6103996)
I didn't realize until post #5 that he's Geronimo Pena's kid.

Looking up the elder Pena ... what happened to him? Decent hitter for a 2B, played regularly for the Cards age 24-28 seasons. Then his age 29 season he got sent to AAA, and hit (903 OPS), got cut, signed with the Indians, got sent to AAA and raked (1028 OPS), which earned him 5 games in September ... and then nothing. Seems like a guy that I'd expect to be racking up 200 PA per year into his mid-30's.

   7. Cooper Nielson Posted: November 04, 2022 at 12:33 AM (#6104187)
Good comment in #1, Walt.

I was specifically wondering about Javier, as I heard the TV guys mention how he wasn't a "ranked prospect" but he's been pretty dominant since day one at the major league level and I wondered how that happened -- did he suddenly flip a switch in the majors? Some guys do that, but they're usually older. Corey Kluber's a good example.

So I looked at Javier's minor-league stats and saw that he had a 2.22 ERA over 5 seasons (377 IP with a transition from mostly reliever to mostly starter) with 12.2 K/9 and a 1.029 WHIP. He was consistently young for his level too. (He's only 25 now.) Hmmm... that's pretty good.

In 2019, at age 22 and over three levels combined, he had a 1.74 ERA in 113.2 IP (26 games, 18 starts), 13.5 K/9 and a WHIP under 1.00. But pre-2020, he was still unranked. How does a guy like that get overlooked?
   8. John Reynard Posted: November 04, 2022 at 01:01 AM (#6104188)
ooking up the elder Pena ... what happened to him?


My memory of what happened to Pena was that he was the lefty-mashing side of STL 2B platoon, even when things were going well (despite being a switch hitter) and the Cardinals decided to go with Alicea at the main 2B and Oquendo as the pair, because of greater versatility or something and nobody cared enough for a lefty-mashing 2B type to pick him up and give him much of a chance. Even back then, a short-side platoon guy at 2B who couldn't play any other positions well was a luxury.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: November 04, 2022 at 02:11 PM (#6104226)
#4: details, details. :-) Sorry, I should have checked, I just saw the birthplace and assumed from there. Which, y'know, is the behavior I'm questioning in #1. Still, do as I say.

I was also unaware of the Geronimo Pena connection. Extending the mystery, that photo at b-r looks like one of those 1920s photos. As #6 notes, he stopped playing AAA after 29 and he was still raking at AAA. His Wiki pages offers no info. Did he get hurt? Did he get a good coaching opportunity? As #6 implies, if nothing else you'd think this guy would keep signing a AAA $100k contract year after year into his mid-30s as emergency replacement.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: November 04, 2022 at 02:29 PM (#6104228)
I found it curious that Pena moved Jeremy and the family from the DR to Providence, RI. I wonder what drove that. He never played in RI. It's not exactly the best place to raise a son interested in baseball, at least not since Woonsocket stopped producing Hall of Famers back around the turn of the last century.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: November 04, 2022 at 05:26 PM (#6104247)
And then Geronimo let his kid go to U Maine, its claim to MLB fame being Bill Swift. Clearly the man had no clue what was best for his family. :-)

Anyway, Jeremy is already 2nd in career WAR among UMaine draft picks. Mark Sweeney was also pretty well known in his day and Bert Roberge had a cool name.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: November 04, 2022 at 05:37 PM (#6104249)
And then Geronimo let his kid go to U Maine, its claim to MLB fame being Bill Swift.


The Black Bears seemed to be a fixture in Omaha back in the 80s, when the College World Series was divided geographically.
   13. Swoboda is freedom Posted: November 05, 2022 at 02:28 PM (#6104323)
Anyway, Jeremy is already 2nd in career WAR among UMaine draft picks. Mark Sweeney was also pretty well known in his day and Bert Roberge had a cool name.

I think you are forgetting Mike Bordick, though I see he was not drafted.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: November 05, 2022 at 03:11 PM (#6104342)
Hmmm ... I clicked on the U Maine link in Jeremy's page and expected that to take me to all UMaine but it took me to UMaine draft picks. Apparently I clicked on the link in his draft entry; if I click on the UMaine link in his college entry, I get all UMaine -- but that table doesn't have WAR in it. (Why in the world not?) Anyway, you are correct that Pena is 3rd behind Swift and Bordick.
   15. Haibara Posted: November 24, 2022 at 09:27 PM (#6106716)
Either way, he was great in his position, maybe he was underrated for what he deserved. word hurdle

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