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Monday, January 07, 2008

Sickels: Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20

What a horrible system. There isn’t much else to say about it.

+1

 

Mike Emeigh Posted: January 07, 2008 at 03:06 PM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: minor leagues, pirates, prospect reports

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   1. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: January 07, 2008 at 03:18 PM (#2662271)
Huntington has his work cut out for him. Whether the new policy will allow him to spend what it takes to compete at the major league level as well as sign the best possible prospects remains to be seen.
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 03:30 PM (#2662282)
"What a horrible system. There isn’t much else to say about it."

Yeah, that stings a little. 100% true, though.
   3. 1k5v3L Posted: January 07, 2008 at 03:37 PM (#2662291)
I don't see the A- grade for McCutchen. In fact, B+ would've been more than generous, imho.
   4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 03:49 PM (#2662301)
"I don't see the A- grade for McCutchen."

He's got tools out the wazoo, he was a 20-year-old who ended the season in AAA, and while his raw numbers with Altoona weren't all that impressive, he made big strides as the year went on. He's been rushed, but there's a hell of a lot of talent there.
   5. 1k5v3L Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:09 PM (#2662316)
The thing is, Vlad, basically EVERY offensive player who's worth knowing in AA tends to show improvement in the second half--and most of the time that's due to the fact that every pitcher who's worth knowing in AA is either in AAA or the majors by that point, and he's replaced by a guy coming up from A ball. So while that improvement is encouraging, I'm not convinced the progress you're seeing in the numbers is real progress in ability. It might be, it might not be.

And incidentally, that's another reason why I've really had to reconsider my evaluation of Carlos Gonzalez in light of his second half improvement. I still like CarGo as a prospect (like him a lot more than Shoewizard, for example), but I'm now discounting his July/August stats quite a bit, and am just looking at his overall AA line instead--and it's not that impressive. Just like McCutchen, he's got a lot of talent, but both of them will need to show a lot more in 2008.

Of course, Sickels knows a lot more about prospects than I do, so his A- grade is OK with me.
   6. WTM Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:21 PM (#2662334)
The one guy on that list (other than 27-yr-old rookie Morgan) who's ready for the majors is Pearce, and he's probably headed back to AAA. If you want a good measure of how much things have or haven't changed in Pgh., wait a few months to see what happens with him.
   7. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:36 PM (#2662337)
He's got tools out the wazoo, he was a 20-year-old who ended the season in AAA, and while his raw numbers with Altoona weren't all that impressive, he made big strides as the year went on. He's been rushed, but there's a hell of a lot of talent there.


Is there any reason to prefer McCutchen circa 2007 to Felix Pie circa 2005? Pie got a B+ after that season (and he was rated below the Cubs' other B+ prospect).
   8. Kyle S Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:42 PM (#2662340)
The thing is, Vlad, basically EVERY offensive player who's worth knowing in AA tends to show improvement in the second half--and most of the time that's due to the fact that every pitcher who's worth knowing in AA is either in AAA or the majors by that point, and he's replaced by a guy coming up from A ball. So while that improvement is encouraging, I'm not convinced the progress you're seeing in the numbers is real progress in ability. It might be, it might not be.

Sorta like how every hitter worth knowing is promoted in the second half, rendering Matt Torra's Jul/Aug/Sep numbers suspect, right levski?
   9. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:46 PM (#2662343)
"I don't see the A- grade for McCutchen."

He's got tools out the wazoo,

So? So does Gomez, who outplayed McCutch at the same age in AA, and was given a B by Sickels.

Truth is neither should be sniffing an A grade.
   10. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:49 PM (#2662344)
There's logic to the argument that a 20 year old outfielder with a .710 OPS isn't a Grade A prospect unless that .710 OPS was in the majors (much less AA).

Looking at the top 5 in OPS+ in each league last year, all of them were pros at 20, the lowest OPS of the bunch was Magglio at .784 in lo-A (and Magglio was very unusual in his late development). Everyone else was over .800. Jones, Fielder, Cabrera and Arod all did it at a level of AA or higher. All the best hitters in the majors right now, were all more or less pretty good to great hitters in the minors when they were 20.

It isn't that McCutcheon can't be a MLB regular or even an All-Star or even (with great luck) an MVP. It's just that a 0.710 OPS in AA sure isn't hinting at it very much, tools or no.
   11. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 04:52 PM (#2662347)
Is there any reason to prefer McCutchen circa 2007 to Felix Pie circa 2005?


No, but some site recently when discussing prospects mentioned that scouts from many teams are almost inexplicably in love with McCutch...

McCutchen age 20 AA/AAA (90% AA): .265/.329/.388
Pie age 20 AA: .304/.349/.554
Gomez age 20 AA: .281/.350/.423

All three have got "got tools out the wazoo"
one gets a B, one a B+ and one an A-

Perhaps John was trying to be nice to Pirates fans?
   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:03 PM (#2662356)
The thing is, Vlad, basically EVERY offensive player who's worth knowing in AA tends to show improvement in the second half--and most of the time that's due to the fact that every pitcher who's worth knowing in AA is either in AAA or the majors by that point, and he's replaced by a guy coming up from A ball. So while that improvement is encouraging, I'm not convinced the progress you're seeing in the numbers is real progress in ability. It might be, it might not be.

Has someone actually studied this issue? Intuitively, it doesn't sound right...plenty of top pitching prospects seem to remain in the minors until September.
   13. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:03 PM (#2662357)
Pops -- do you know anything about Sam Fuld? He's now rumored to be in the Roberts trade.
   14. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:05 PM (#2662358)
"Is there any reason to prefer McCutchen circa 2007 to Felix Pie circa 2005?"

Sure, lots of reasons. McCutchen has a better contact rate and better plate discipline, and is much better at translating plus speed into plus baserunning. He also didn't miss half of his season with a broken ankle, which is a big point of concern for a speed prospect, and he had that successful cup of coffee at AAA (which Pie obviously didn't, being hurt and all).

I don't think you can overlook the importance of that injury in determining Pie's grade at the time.
   15. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:07 PM (#2662361)
Pops -- do you know anything about Sam Fuld? He's now rumored to be in the Roberts trade.


I'm not Pops, but....

He's 3 years older than Pie, a fellow CF, but more of a slap hitter with a good walk rate. Could be a decent leadoff hitter if he develops further. Not sure about his defense.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:08 PM (#2662363)
"So? So does Gomez, who outplayed McCutch at the same age in AA, and was given a B by Sickels."

Ah, I see. This isn't actually a problem with McCutchen's grade. It's sour grapes over the grade of a Mets Prospect. Suddenly it becomes clear.
   17. 1k5v3L Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:11 PM (#2662365)
Sorta like how every hitter worth knowing is promoted in the second half, rendering Matt Torra's Jul/Aug/Sep numbers suspect, right levski?


Well, sure. You have to discount Torra's numbers to some extent because of this fact; however, Torra had some things going in his favor that may suggest his periphs are not all due to decrease in quality of competition.

Most importantly, he was recovering from a shoulder surgery, and was not 100% until May or June; both the stats and the scouting reports (albeit limited ones that I've seen) suggest that once he got (and felt) completely healthy, he pitched better. He just looked like a guy who's healthy. AFAIK, McCutchen/CarGo didn't have any injury issues.

Also, Torra was improving when the weather in CAL league ball parks were heating up and the air was drying out, making the parks much friendlier to hitters. The increase in overall offense in the league in the summer probably more than compensated for the loss of some offensive players to promotion. A lot of pitchers just struggle in the CAL league summer.

Again, am certainly not claiming that Torra has become a great prospect, and am more than happy to discount to some extent his second half improvement. But I do think that his improvement was quite legitimate, and really looked to be just as much a factor of him being healthy and getting a feel for his changeup and curve again as it was a factor of not having to face high A's top hitters.

And mind you, I only called him a sleeper; he's still a C+ prospect any way you cut it, until he shows us more in AA next year. We're not talking about a player given A-. In my book, A- means that there are really very few questions about the player... and I don't think that's the case with McCutchen.
   18. 1k5v3L Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:15 PM (#2662371)
The thing is, Vlad, basically EVERY offensive player who's worth knowing in AA tends to show improvement in the second half--and most of the time that's due to the fact that every pitcher who's worth knowing in AA is either in AAA or the majors by that point, and he's replaced by a guy coming up from A ball. So while that improvement is encouraging, I'm not convinced the progress you're seeing in the numbers is real progress in ability. It might be, it might not be.

Has someone actually studied this issue? Intuitively, it doesn't sound right...plenty of top pitching prospects seem to remain in the minors until September.


A baseball mind I respect a lot made this same argument about Carlos Gonzalez recently, and even if I also questioned it a bit originally, eventually I came to think that he was right... and I am guessing that a lot of scouts/talent evaluators think similarly to the way he does when it comes to 1st half/2nd half splits, ESPECIALLY for players in AAA and even in AA.
   19. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:18 PM (#2662377)
Pops -- do you know anything about Sam Fuld?

He's not a plus in CF and hits like an orphan (no pop). That's not my joke but I love it so.

He is OK at getting on base but he profiles as no better than a bench player - though a better than average backup CF, I think.

He has a low ceiling so I don't see why Baltimore would have any interest unless they want a cheap place holder.
   20. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:20 PM (#2662379)
McCutchen had a nice-looking swing, but he is shorter than I expected for a Grade-A outfield prospect.
   21. SouthSideRyan Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:25 PM (#2662382)
Yeah, the rumored inclusion of Fuld confuses me. He's a reach as a 4th OF.
   22. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:25 PM (#2662383)
Ah, I see. This isn't actually a problem with McCutchen's grade. It's sour grapes over the grade of a Mets Prospect. Suddenly it becomes clear.


You obviously have never seen my comments about Gomez
   23. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:27 PM (#2662386)
He also didn't miss half of his season with a broken ankle, which is a big point of concern for a speed prospect

Fair enough. I had considered the ankle injury to be a non-issue since they don't have the reputation as wrist or hamstrings problems so far as future performance is concerned.
   24. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:34 PM (#2662391)
If Fuld is the 4th player in the deal I suppose he's not a bad throw-in. It looks like his upside is R. Willits, and if he can give the Orioles a couple of years as a close to league average CF until someone better comes along or give them several years as an good 4th OF he'll be pretty useful. The rumor on Orioles Hangout is Gallagher, Marshall, Cedeno and Fuld for Roberts, which I like but don't love. I'd much rather have Patterson or Murton than Marshall (and I don't get why the Cubs would trade that much of their starting depth). OTOH, maybe they're moving away from Patterson because they're hoping to get Kendrick from the Angels.
   25. Greg Schuler Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:40 PM (#2662396)
Getting back to the issue about talent replenishment -

The Pirates have Frank "No one pays over slot" Coonelly in the president's chair.

He hired Neal Huntington, who owes the fact that he is a GM to Coonelly.

Huntington hired Greg Smith, who had been average at best in Detroit and only began to draft better once Dombrowski was on board and Illitch allowed them to spend some money.

As far as I have been able to tell, the majority of scouts are still in place, as are a majority of the player development staff (save for new top guy Kyle Stark).

Is there anything in there that would lead anyone to believe that the Pirates will be able to replenish the farm system? I know, I know - a new academy in the Dominican Republic and an emphasis on cheap foreign talent. We'll see how that goes. Other than that small hope - anything?
   26. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:41 PM (#2662397)
Orioles Hangout is Gallagher, Marshall, Cedeno and Fuld for Roberts, which I like but don't love.


I can't believe the Cubs think Roberts will be good enough to be worth all four, especially Gallagher and Marshall.
   27. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:43 PM (#2662400)
I'd much rather have Patterson or Murton than Marshall (and I don't get why the Cubs would trade that much of their starting depth).

I think the Cubs would rather have Marshall than either of those two.

The rumor on Orioles Hangout is Gallagher, Marshall, Cedeno and Fuld for Roberts, which I like but don't love.

I would be shocked if Murton is not included. The Cubs don't have a lot of use for him and picking up Roberts would make DeRosa their right handed hitting bench option for the outfield. I also don't see why the Cubs would try too hard to retain Patterson (if they acquire Roberts). His 'natural' position of 2B would be occupied and there's nowhere to put him if he gets converted to outfield.
   28. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:46 PM (#2662405)
OK, I should stop hijacking the Pirates thread. The Pagan to Mets thread seems like a better forum for Fuld/Orioles analysis.
   29. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:50 PM (#2662409)
Getting back to the issue about talent replenishment -

The Pirates have Frank "No one pays over slot" Coonelly in the president's chair.


Well, I could easily see a scenario where Coonelly gives Huntingdon and Smith free reign to go over slot

1: He's no longer working for MLB, he's working for the Pirates
2: He's knows there is really no downside for the Pirates to go over slot
   30. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 07, 2008 at 05:56 PM (#2662414)
I would be shocked if Murton is not included. The Cubs don't have a lot of use for him and picking up Roberts would make DeRosa their right handed hitting bench option for the outfield. I also don't see why the Cubs would try too hard to retain Patterson (if they acquire Roberts). His 'natural' position of 2B would be occupied and there's nowhere to put him if he gets converted to outfield.

Right -- the orioles need position players, and the Cubs need Marshall far more than they need those other two, so the trade is odd IMO.
   31. WTM Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:03 PM (#2662420)
He's knows there is really no downside for the Pirates to go over slot

The downside is what it always is with the Pirates--spending money. There's no evidence yet that anything's changed in that area. They dumped Salomon Torres and Jose Castillo just to get rid of their piddling (by MLB standards) salaries and replaced them with Chris Gomez and, apparently, Elmer Dessens. To the Pirates, going over slot by, say, $100K is a really big deal, unless their attitude has changed.
   32. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:14 PM (#2662433)
Has someone actually studied this issue? Intuitively, it doesn't sound right...plenty of top pitching prospects seem to remain in the minors until September.


Never thought of that before, but it does sound right. Maybe lots of top pitching prospects stay in the minors, but the highly regarded ones in AA are usually moving up to AAA. They are being replaced by top prospects who started the year in A+. Could be that the quality of play over most of the minor leagues goes down as the season progresses. And the quality of MLB play gets better as the year goes on.

It does make sense. Nobody ever played their way off a MLB roster by being too good (maybe it's happening to Bonds) but if you're among the best in any minor league, you likely will not finish the season there.
   33. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:17 PM (#2662441)
WTM,

One thing I found in my short and not too heavily involved time in a baseball front office is that every one of the 30 teams have skin-flints sitting in the executive part of the front office who throw nickels around like they were manhole covers. Well maybe not the Yankees. That's the way the top echelon of businesses work, wasting money doesn't tend to fast-track you to CEO. Baseball teams are stingy as all hell. Trust me, I KNOW.

The difference in many instances is the degree of confidence they have in their baseball operations people to spend the money they are given for players wisely. Given the Pirates recent track record with regards to player expenditures, I might be a little hesitant to give the team money as well. If the new Baseball Ops team demonstrates a lot more shrewdness with the funds they are given than the previous couple did, it's quite possible the purse-strings loosen some. The NL Central certainly looks like a soft enough spot to make some noise in for the near future.

Then again it may be a situation like the one with the late "Dollar Bill" Wirtz of the Chicago Blackhawks. Thriftyness was seen as an end in and of itself, rather than a means to run the business successfully. Hard to know.
   34. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:23 PM (#2662453)
"I had considered the ankle injury to be a non-issue since they don't have the reputation as wrist or hamstrings problems so far as future performance is concerned."

It's not as big an issue as it would've been if he'd Ruben Mateo'ed himelf, but I never take a complete recovery for granted with prospects, and I think Sickels tends to be pretty conservative about injuries. Even if you don't worry about long-term effects from a (minor) break in the leg area, it's still an issue when a guy who's already got more tools than skills misses half a year of development time. Since Sickels grades in part on proximity to the majors, I think something like that could be enough to bump a guy from A/A- to B+
   35. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:26 PM (#2662457)
1: He's no longer working for MLB, he's working for the Pirates
2: He's knows there is really no downside for the Pirates to go over slot


Baseball has done a very good job in keeping teams from paying over slot. The growth in signing bonuses is much lower than that of overall salaries. Therefore it presents a very good opportunity to the teams that do go over slot. They can get much better returns on their money than by paying market value to free agents. But if every team tries to do this, they will escalate the bonus structure to the point where the expected return on a top draft pick is not much of a bargain over spending on a free agent.

Problem is its the rich teams that are taking advantage of this. Despite drafting in the top 5 every year we've got teams like the Pirates with almost barren farm systems, and teams like the Red Sox and Yankees with loads of prospects.

You have teams like the Pirates, Royals, and Orioles being good soldiers and keeping the price of draft picks low, and teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Tigers reaping the benefits.

I don't know why these teams don't just flip the bird to the commissioner and take the best players. It sure beats spending on Matt Morris or Reggie Sanders.
   36. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:27 PM (#2662458)
He's knows there is really no downside for the Pirates to go over slot

The downside is what it always is with the Pirates--spending money


They had the money to draft and sign Wieters, Littlefield chose not to, he picked the 1st rounder most likely to sign cheaply, moved the excess money into the general player fund and spent it in his trade for Morris.
   37. WTM Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:30 PM (#2662463)
The Orioles went way over slot for Wieters, as the Nats did for McGeary. Lots of teams go over slot now. There's just a difference in how often, ranging from routinely (Yanks, Red Sox) to never (Pirates).
   38. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:31 PM (#2662464)
Given the Pirates recent track record with regards to player expenditures, I might be a little hesitant to give the team money as well. If the new Baseball Ops team demonstrates a lot more shrewdness with the funds they are given than the previous couple did, it's quite possible the purse-strings loosen some.


I hope for the Pirates sake somebody realizes thats a recipe for a neverending cycle of defeat.

Step one: Tell your baseball people you can't afford Matt Weiters, Rick Porcello, or Jarrod Parker
Step two: Watch them draft another low upside college pitcher
Step three: Tell them since they didn't draft anyone good, you don't trust them with spending a lot of money next year
Step four: 6th place!
   39. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 06:32 PM (#2662465)
The Orioles went way over slot for Wieters


True. And the Royals seem to be waking up under Dayton Moore as well, but for years they've been the whipping boys letting the best players slip to the big markets.
   40. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 07:07 PM (#2662514)
"I don't know why these teams don't just flip the bird to the commissioner and take the best players. It sure beats spending on Matt Morris or Reggie Sanders."

If the Pirates go over slot, Commissioner Bud won't give them any more under-the-table kickbacks from the discretionary fund.
   41. Walt Davis Posted: January 07, 2008 at 07:41 PM (#2662564)
We know that things like half-season trends have little/no predictive power in MLB. I understand the logic of thinking differently for minor-leaguers, but is there any evidence? Is there evidence that a good 2nd half from 20-22 year-old MLBers is predictive?

Promotions of pitchers/hitters or not, until I see numbers to convince me otherwise, I'd just treat good halves as "random" hot streaks.
   42. BFFB Posted: January 07, 2008 at 08:01 PM (#2662594)
It is a valid supposition, even if the empiracal measure is not there. All this means is that you adjust how much the additional information affects your perceptions of particular events.

Blithely ignoring thdiluted talent pool and treating and splits as "random" is a great way to miss something important, particularly if you use it with other data to build a fuller picture.
   43. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 08:15 PM (#2662615)
I think its safest to just look at a player's total season.

But the idea that the quality of play goes down as the minor league season progresses is just one more reason not to look at an individual's second half and say "he broke out."

If we looked at all minor league players who play a full season at one level, would we see an average increase in their second half play? Good question, but I don't have the data to answer it.
   44. DCA Posted: January 07, 2008 at 08:29 PM (#2662639)
If we looked at all minor league players who play a full season at one level, would we see an average increase in their second half play? Good question, but I don't have the data to answer it.

Probably, but there's a major selective sample issue ... those who play a full season at one level would probably have worse first half performance than those who didn't, since if they had played better they'd have been promoted and removed from the sample. So I assume you'd see this, and if you did, you couldn't conclude anything from it.
   45. Rally Posted: January 07, 2008 at 08:40 PM (#2662651)
You're right, once again selective sampling rears its ugly head.

We can't prove it, but it logically follows that quality of play would decline as the year goes on. Outside of MLB, in every professional league a player will be removed if he proves he's too good.

But are the good players being removed faster than the remaining young players can improve their skills? I'm not sure about that.
   46. JPWF13 Posted: January 07, 2008 at 10:01 PM (#2662756)
Probably, but there's a major selective sample issue ... those who play a full season at one level would probably have worse first half performance than those who didn't, since if they had played better they'd have been promoted and removed from the sample. So I assume you'd see this, and if you did, you couldn't conclude anything from it.


But then those who had poor first halves are probably on average worse than the guys who had good first halves, the better players are more likely to be removed through promotion as the season goes on.

So maybe we can ask this way, let's say among players who spend the whole year at one level the average line is .255/.325/.390 in the 1st half and .265/.335/.415 in the second half.
FOUR possibilities
1: regression to the mean, the guys who stayed the whole year at one level had poor first halves, the guys who got promoted had good first halves.
2: League quality declined as the good players were promoted throughout the season.
3: A combination of 1 & 2
4: something else entirely.

If there is a general statistical improvement in the second half among whole seasoners, I would tend to ignore second half splits unless they are extreme.
   47. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 07, 2008 at 10:14 PM (#2662777)
My problem with discounting McCutchen's second-half improvement on sampling grounds is that he spent the last month of the season in AAA (and hit better than his season line in AA at that level). Even if you grant the idea of a dynamic level of competition (and it's an open question at best, in the absence of research), then it still doesn't exactly apply to him.
   48. Pirate Joe Posted: January 08, 2008 at 01:03 AM (#2662954)
I hope for the Pirates sake somebody realizes thats a recipe for a neverending cycle of defeat.

Step one: Tell your baseball people you can't afford Matt Weiters, Rick Porcello, or Jarrod Parker
Step two: Watch them draft another low upside college pitcher
Step three: Tell them since they didn't draft anyone good, you don't trust them with spending a lot of money next year
Step four: 6th place!




You forgot the most important step as far as Pirates ownership is concerned:

Profits!

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