We are a fantasy baseball league whose draft is scheduled for April 23. That's a little late, even for us. But given the spate of players going on the DL...

Monday, January 17, 2005

BP on Rays, Jays

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
New Life for Faded Prospects?: It wasn't that long ago that Josh Phelps graced our cover. (The 2003 edition of Baseball Prospectus, in case you're wondering.) He had mashed his way into our hearts, but the league caught up with him. Similarly, Brandon Larson seemed to have a world of hope a couple years ago with the Cincinnati Reds.
Of all teams, curiously the Devil Rays have made a couple of low-risk signings that may pay off in spades. In addition, they may have the right manager to turn them around. For all his faults, Lou Piniella has done the most good with hitters, especially power hitters who haven't quite hit their stride. Chris Sabo, Bret Boone, Mike Pagliarulo, Paul Sorrento and Jay Buhner all seemed to have been positively influenced by Piniella.
Let's look at Larson first. He's continued to mash in Triple-A (OPSes of 1060, 1001 and 871) the last three seasons. PECOTA likes him, but that hasn't yet translated into results in the majors. The risk is that Larson gets labeled a Quadruple-A player and follows the Russ Branyan career path, or worse. Some of his woes may be explained away by nagging injuries; at this point, Larson's window of opportunity is closing. Let's look at his PECOTA projected numbers versus actuals since 2003:
Year G AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2003 PECOTA 248 62 13 1 12 19 68 2 2 .251 .310 .456 766 14.6
2003 ActCIN 32 89 9 1 0 1 13 31 2 2 .101 .212 .146 358 -11.9
2004 PECOTA 265 68 15 1 14 25 67 3 1 .257 .325 .474 799 16.5
2004 ActCIN 40 118 25 6 0 3 14 35 1 0 .212 .304 .339 643 -1.1
2005 PECOTA 262 68 13 1 15 25 78 2 0 .258 .326 .481 807 11.6
Larson has been a huge underachiever to date, and as such is a solid low-risk proposition by the Devil Rays. If he doesn't work, he can be cast aside without losing much. If he does work out, they've found a nice power hitter for little investment. He's not likely to be with the Devil Rays the next time (if ever?) they win anything, but he could certainly make for some nice swag at the trading deadline.
Now, on to Phelps. Poster boy in 2003, only to be moved in 2004 for a potentially useful career minor leaguer in Eric Crozier. Crozier's PECOTA projection is for a VORP of 14.7 in 236 at bats in 2005.
Year G AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2003 PECOTA 393 100 23 1 25 42 120 2 2 .255 .334 .508 842 30.6
2003 ActTOR 119 396 106 18 1 20 39 115 1 2 .268 .358 .470 828 23.7
2004 PECOTA 395 107 23 1 24 43 105 2 1 .272 .355 .520 875 27.4
2004 ActTOR 79 295 70 13 2 12 18 73 0 0 .237 .296 .417 713 2.3
2004 ActCLE 24 76 23 6 0 5 4 20 0 0 .303 .338 .579 917 7.5
2005 PECOTA 401 107 23 1 22 36 108 0 1 .267 .339 .495 834 26.3
It wouldn't be surprising to see Piniella and a change of scenery help Phelps turn it around and decimate that projection. Once again, the Devil Rays are in a position to take chances. Either one of these two may pay huge dividends.
Top 50 Prospects: Like the Braves, the Devil Rays have one of the candidates fror best prospect in the game.
Delmon Young. He didn't put up Bondsian numbers. He's still got a ways to go to get to the majors. That's the downside.
He was 18. There wasn't much he didn't do well. Hit for average, hit for power, drew some walks and stole some bases. Young has "hitter" written all over him, and he's likely to get better. What did he do last year, and what does PECOTA expect? Let's look:
Year Lvl G AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2004 A- 131 513 164 26 5 25 53 120 21 6 .320 .386 .536 922
2005 PECOTA 408 106 20 4 12 33 105 8 3 .259 .321 .417 738 10.9
Young may still be a long way from the majors, but a 19-year-old who looks like he could hold his own in the major leagues is special. Ask Ivan Rodriguez. Or Alex Rodriguez. Or the Devil Rays' own B.J. Upton. We still don't know what he'll become as a hitter; for now, there isn't much in the way of limits.
Jonny Gomes. PECOTA wonderboy? Wily Mo Pena was both the subject of ridicule and, eventually, astonishment when PECOTA pegged him for a big year in 2004. Gomes might be this year's version? To be fair, Gomes doesn't have the age advantage of Pena, and he's not highly regarded by scouts for his tools. He's 24 (won't turn 25 until next November), so it's not like he's young enough to have the upside of Young or Upton.
What Gomes has, however, is the ability to hit. Although he's perhaps a little old for a prospect, anyone who's slugged .526 through their minor-league career has merit. Below are his career numbers along with his 2005 PECOTA projection.
Year TM LG Ag Lvl AVG G AB H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO OBP SLG OPS
2001 PRI App 20 Roo .291 62 206 60 11 2 16 15 4 33 73 .389 .597 986
2002 BAK CAL 21 A .276 133 446 123 24 9 30 15 3 91 173 .431 .572 1003
2003 ORL SOU 22 AA .249 120 442 110 28 3 17 23 2 53 148 .348 .441 789
2004 DUR INT 23 AAA .256 114 390 100 27 1 26 8 5 51 136 .368 .531 899
2005 TB AL 24 MLB .265 272 72 15 2 14 5 2 34 88 .366 .491 857
With Rocco Baldelli out with a torn ACL, Gomes should get some playing time. That doesn't mean he will. The latest word is that Joey Gathright is going to get time in Baldelli's absence. Putting things in perspective, Gathright's projection of -4.5 VORP is the worst among the Devil Rays, below such luminaries as Brook Fordyce and Rey Sanchez. As fast as Gathright may be, as the old cliché goes, you can't steal first base. Gathright's PECOTA projection:
Year Lvl AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2005 PECOTA 338 85 12 3 1 23 67 23 7 .252 .311 .310 621 -4.5
If the choice is between Joey Gathright and Jonny Gomes, it's not a tough one.
Toronto Blue Jays
Anti-Moneyball? Just when you had J.P. Ricciardi pegged as a Billy Beane disciple, he throws a wrench in the works. Come to think of it, Beane's done that himself this offseason, so perhaps J.P.'s following suit. The similarity ends there, though. Beane realized he needed to retool and decisively made moves to try to inject fresh blood into the A's, all while leaving them options for the future. Ricciardi's latest moves seem like something intended to plug holes in the dam until better options are available.
In the past month, the Jays have gone out and gotten Corey Koskie, Shea Hillenbrand, Scott Schoeneweis and Billy Koch. Koch comes back to the Jays in a low-risk, low-cost deal; if he finds himself again, he could certainly be nice bait for a mid-season deal. Schoeneweis is a bit more confusing, as he's had one semi-useful campaign in relief.
Let's look at the recent position player acquisitions within the context of dollars per anticipated win (salary divided by projected Wins Above Replacement, in millions).
Player AB(est) WARP VORP(est) 2005 Salary $MM/Win
Koskie 417 2.8 29.9 3,500,000* $1.25
Hillenbrand 492 1.2 13.0 4,000,000** $3.33
Crozier 236 New 14.7 300,000 $0.20
.. and a couple others for comparison:
Player AB(est) WARP VORP(est) 2005 Salary $MM/Win
Eric Hinske 450 3.0 13.9 3,000,000 $1.00
Aubrey Huff 534 2.4 40.0 4,500,000 $1.88
* includes pro-rated signing bonus
** high-end estimate at arbitration; 2004
WARP numbers are projected from 2004 PECOTA projection
It's hard to justify the Hillenbrand acquisition, although there are some mitigating factors. He didn't cost a lot in terms of talent--C pitching prospect Adam Peterson--and the Jays seemed to have some money to spend this season. He's not a financial albatross, and can be traded or cut loose fairly readily. There wasn't much left on the market in the way of right-handed power or first basemen. If he puts up good raw numbers, he could be flipped for something useful when a desperate team comes calling mid-season.
The Koskie signing looks like a good value proposition, at least in comparison to the players above. Unfortunately, he's going to be blocking Aaron Hill by the end of this year, and at 32, it's not likely that he'll be revisiting his 2000-03 peak. Expect Koskie to take over third base while Hinske moves across the diamond to first base, with a plethora of options having Hillenbrand and Crozier around. They're certainly covered at third base if anyone gets hurt, having just about cornered the mid-market third basemen.
Top 50 Prospects: The Jays have a deep farm system, but lack the top-tier guy the Devil Rays and Braves each have.
Guillermo Quiroz. 2004 was a tough year for Quiroz. He had all the luster and sheen of a top catching prospect, and a nagging hand injury derailed his season. There's still plenty of opportunity, but he'll wind up moving downward in our prospect list until he can establish that he's healthy and the lost season hasn't derailed his development. His 2004 numbers along with his PECOTA projection:
Year Lvl G AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2004 AAA 76 255 58 19 1 8 28 54 0 0 .227 .309 .404 713
2004 TOR 17 52 11 2 0 0 2 8 1 0 .212 .250 .263 513
2005 PECOTA 291 74 16 1 12 26 68 0 1 .254 .326 .441 767 13.9
Quiroz still projects quite well, albeit in limited playing time. His catching skills are still well regarded; if he continues to build on those and his peripheral batting skills, he won't have to hit for a high average to be valuable. If he does, it'll be gravy. Expect Quiroz to be middle to back of the pack in our Top 50 Prospects list. If he returns healthy and continues to develop, he'll be far more valuable than that.
Russ Adams. Adams is a more difficult story. He looks like he'll be a useful player for a few years, with little or no star potential. The Jays can plug him in, have an affordable shortstop (or second baseman) for a few years, then shift to a utility or backup role. He did have a nice cup of coffee in 2004, but he'll have to keep that up much longer to convince us this is a real change and not sample size variation.
Year Lvl G AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS VORP
2004 AAA 122 483 139 37 3 5 45 62 6 2 .288 .351 .408 759
2004 TOR 22 72 22 2 1 4 5 5 1 0 .306 .359 .526 887
2005 PECOTA 303 81 17 3 6 30 40 4 2 .268 .338 .396 734 14.1
Adams is likely to have a few productive years, then become a utility player or part-timer. Look for him to get an honorable mention in our Top 50 Prospects list.

No comments:

My Blogger Panel