Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sifting about for golden prospects

For the second time this month, we found ourselves with a copy of Baseball America in our hands. BA, as the cool kids call it, is like the Barely Legal of prospect porn. (So we're told.)

The first copy was an ancient edition (circa 2002) stumbled upon as we were sifting through and unpacking boxes of baseball marginalia. The other was a brand new edition, picked up this week at the newsstand. Leafing through both, we found it instructive to learn from the older edition to get a sense what the most recent list of future Jays might mean.

The 2002 copy included a run down of the top prospects for the NL East, including the Expos. Among those on the list for the Expos were some future stars, including Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore. Also on the list were some players who had decent-to-marginal careers (Brad Wilkerson), a few guys who barely made a dent (Zach Day, Justin Wayne), and a bunch of guys who flamed out completely (Donnie Bridges, Josh Karp, Luke Lockwood, Eric Good).

And the Expos weren't an especially exceptional case that year. The Mets, for instance, had a few superstars in the making (Jose Reyes and David Wright), but at the top of their list was Aaron Heilman, who seven seasons later has turned into a serviceable middle reliever, but not much else. The rest of the list included a couple of uninspiring arms (Jae Seo and Tyler Yates), along with some "who-dats?" such as Corey Wright, Grant Roberts, Jamie Cerda and Pat Strange.

In fact, as we've scoured back through some of BA's top prospects over the years, we've found that less than half of the annual top 10's do much, and usually only one or maybe two players on each of those lists become something special.

With that in mind, we turn to the latest edition, complete with the post-Halladay trade prospect list for the Jays. That list looks a little something like this:

1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
2. Brett Wallace, 3B
3. Zach Stewart, RHP
4. J.P. Arencibia, C
5. Travis D'Arnaud, C
6. Chad Jenkins, RHP
7. David Cooper, 1B
8. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
9. Jake Marisnick, OF
10. Josh Roenicke, RHP

The Tao's Prospect Analysis - aka Pissing in the wind about lists
With the lessons of the past as prologue, we've been looking at those names and their associated descriptions in the dead-tree edition, and trying to sort out which of these we think might be golden, and which are just shiny pebbles. We'd never even attempt to present ourselves as sun-dried scouts, especially since we've seen exactly one of these guys play.

Our hope is that this class of ten is the exception, and that they all end up playing long and storied careers, but if we had to take a stab at it based on their progressions, we'd figure that Arencibia, Jenkins, Cooper, D'Arnaud and Roenicke may end up in the dustbin of Jays history, while Drabek and maybe Stewart could be stars. (You can pick your stars and scrubs by picking them out of a hat, and we'd have a hard time arguing with you.)

We'd love to think of Alvarez as the future superstar, but hearing that he tops out at around 89 mph makes us wonder how much of his extraordinary run in the NY-Penn League will translate. He's only 19, so there's time for him to put some meat on his bones and turn into the Venezuelan Pedro, which makes us cast wistful thoughts towards what he might do for the Jays some time after 2014ish.

The Wild Cards for us would be Jake Marisnick and Brett Wallace. Marisnick really hasn't played much against men who are paid to play the game for a living, but is described as having a "good body." (In case any of you girlie-girls were wondering.)

Wallace, on the other hand, has a great body...if your archetype for great bodies is something along the lines of the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. (More to love, ladies!) And as much as we keep hearing about what a great looking swing Wallace has, we look at the numbers and see a guy who tore up pitching when he was armed with a carbon-fibre death club, but who has posted progressively declining OPSs with each successive level of pro ball. Wallace has posted an .815 OPS in 106 Triple-A games over his career so far. As a point of comparison, Travis Snider, who is two years younger, posted an OPS of 1.043 in 66 Triple-A games.

If you've made it this far through our meandering mess of useless speculation, the rather uninspiring conclusion is that we have no idea what this list means, and whether if there is anything of real value amongst the most recent list. It's not exactly a crapshoot, but given the dearth of real meaningful information that any of us has on any of these guys, it's hard to start slotting these names into the lineup of the playoff-bound powerhouse of our dreams.


The Ack said...

I wonder if a change in methodologies of evaluating player potential works towards adding a little more "assurance" towards those prospect ranking and evaluating based on more predictive stats like OBP/OPS as opposed to the old triple slash baseball card lines once held as gospel.

(and don't get me wrong, I still get worked up over a .300/30/100...even if it comes with a .310 OBP. I'm slow.)

Stedron said...

You have Barely Legal, but not MLB Network. Wow.

Tao of Stieb said...

If it weren't for Barely Legal, most Canadians wouldn't make it through the winter.

Tao of Stieb said...

(I'm really inviting all sorts of calamity in the comments by talking about that magazine on the blog, aren't I?)

Stedron said...

Luckily the dick and fart crowd doesn't get out of the Drunks comments section too often. We should be safe.

Stedron said...

And by safe, I mean safe to make our own dick and fart jokes that we hold in higher regard than their dick and fart jokes.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Arencibia was supposed to have had a bad year, and obviously has one BIG problem. But there aren't a lot of catchers with good D who have that kind of power. He looks like he'll be a big leaguer somewhere. Maybe a younger Barajas, but, whatever.

You're right about Wallace though if you just look at the numbers. Why are people so high on him?


Peter Gentleman said...

Hey, no trashing the Dweam, pal.

Anonymous said...

i thought you just bought cigarettes when you "go to get a baseball magazine"? my mistake.

Clint said...

Not sure where you got your info about Henderson Alvarez but he doesn't top out at 89, this is from Baseball America's 2010 Jays top ten prospects:

" All three of Alvarez's pitches have a chance to be average or better. His best offering is his changeup, which has splitter action. When he's at his best, his fastball sits at 89-92 mph and touches 94. He commands his fastball and changeup very well, and complements them with a three-quarters breaking ball."

Also his tremendous run last year was not in the NY-Pen league, but in full season single A in the midmwest league.

Tao of Stieb said...

@anonymous 3:43 (and don't think I don't know who you are, you rat bastard)

I'm now on my 12th week without cigarettes. And aside from the occasional bout of uncontrollable rage, a few incidents of ill-considered generosity at the local peeler bar and some moments of unbridled weepy sadness, I have to say: It's all good.

(I sincerely hope this inspires you all to quit doing whatever is harmful to your health. Unless it is the radiation from your monitor as you are reading this which case, carry on.)

Tao of Stieb said...


On the Alvarez thing: I guess I focussed more on the weaknesses part of his profile, where they say "there are games where he works at 86-89 mph". That's what stuck with me.

I still love that dude. I want that skinny little jug headed hurler in Toronto by next year.

Mylegacy said...

Prediction -

By Mid-2011 Sport Illustrated has a picture of Wallace, Snider, Lind and Hill on their front page with the headline - "Jays Four Horsemen Ride down Yanks and Sox."

Remember girls - you read it here first.

Steve G. said...

Baseball Prospectus has their Top 11 out as well, along with four more:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
2. Brett Wallace, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Travis d'Arnaud, C
4. Chad Jenkins, RHP
5. J.P. Arencibia, C
6. Zach Stewart, RHP
7. Carlos Perez, C
8. Jake Marisnick, OF
9. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
10. Tim Collins, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Gustavo Pierre, SS
12. Brian Dopirak
13. Josh Roenicke
14. Brad Mills
15. David Cooper

Sleeper: Daniel Farquhar

Anonymous said...

Maybe Roenicke may get stiffed on these lists because he was a late-round pick. But his minor league numbers are fantastic. Strikes A LOT of people out and is very stingy with the homer.

He had a couple of bad outings with us last year, but his stuff looked fairly filthy to me.


Darren Priest said...

Mylegacy, I like the cut of your jib. Calling us girls is so incongruous with your profile pic, but I like that too!

The future seems bright for the Jays. How much of that can be credited to JP?

In any case, this sums up my feelings as a Jays fan right now. Screw you, Tao, you won't post it!

Mike Wilner said...

Rays 10 - Jays 0
Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

6:15 PM Eastern

That’s it. The sky is falling. Roy Halladay can’t get anybody out, the Blue Jays can’t hit and therefore we can look forward to another second-division finish. I wonder if the Jays will be able to hold off the Rays for fourth place.

Look, I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I find it bizarre that there’s so much hand-wringing and rending of garments going on about the Blue Jays’ lousy showing this spring. Nothing matters until the bell rings, and the seemingly overwhelming panic about Frank Thomas’ 6-for-41 is getting way out of hand for me. No one has mentioned that Alex Rios is hitting .156 this spring (7-for-45) after his 0-for-4 today.

I find it funny that there are complaints about the lack of offense. I mean, I understand that there’s worry after what happened to the bats last season, but give the season a chance to get going.

Big Apple Mets Guy said...

Grant Roberts...don't you remember him? He was one of the Mets Newsday claimed smoked marijuana during the 2002 season and included a 1998 photo of Roberts smoking marijuana. Roberts said a former girlfriend leeked the pic after trying to extort money from him.

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