Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arenado, Pomeranz and Wheeler player comps

Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt offered some time to talk about Rockies' prospects. Mitchell has appeared on ESPN Radio and written for ESPN and Fangraphs in addition to his work for MLB Dirt, for whom he does significant work evaluating prospects.

Rockies' Prospects Report: Everyone knows Nolan Arenado is the Rockies' top prospect. How good can he be, as in what do you see his ceiling as and at the same time, what's his floor?

Texas Rangers' All Star Michael Young
Mitchell: He can be a star. He has the ability to hit over .300 with 35-plus doubles and 20-plus home runs while playing at least average defense at third base. His floor will only be reached if he lacks conditioning and starts expanding his zone.

RPR: Maybe offer a player comp for Arenado?

Mitchell: He is hard to give a comp for. Michael Young with better defense, perhaps, or Placido Polanco with a lot more power. He really has the best tools of both of those All-Stars.

RPR: Drew Pomeranz - his fastball is respected, his curveball has been mentioned as a plus-pitch. Can he succeed and stay healthy finishing off curveballs at altitude with Denver his home address?

Mitchell: The break is not the same on pitches at that altitude so, for me, the key to his success is that he will have to refine his other secondary offerings if his curve fails him at home games. Jason Hammel is a guy who had a good curveball and saw it regress three straight season in Colorado, going from +14.1 runs his first year to -3.3 last year. The key for Pomeranz is to recognize when he "doesn't have it" and work off of his other pitches. I think he can succeed, though.

RPR:. One interviewee mentioned the names Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss when discussing Pomeranz. I even think of a Cliff Lee-in development guy. Are those names all pie in the sky for Pomeranz or can be become an outstanding to elite pitcher, and for a team that plays at Coors?

4-time All Star Mark Langston
Mitchell: I think any prospect being compared to those names is unfair. Carlton is one of the best left-handers of all-time and Cliff Lee is a current top pitcher in the game. I don't quite think Pomeranz has their ceiling but that's not to say he cannot be a solid pitcher.

A fair ceiling and comparison from the past would be Mark Langston and one from the present would be Gio Gonzalez. And those comps are nothing to be ashamed of.

RPR:. Tim Wheeler had a bust-out season a year ago, exhibiting outstanding power. He also showed himself to be streaky going the wrong way at times and struck out a ton. Is he a quality MLB starter or far less, as in more low-level starting outfielder or a no. 4?

Nate McLouth is a .249 career hitter
Mitchell: I think Wheeler will be one of those guys who starts for a few years and produces but falls into a fourth outfielder role due to him moving to man a corner outfield spot. I really want to believe he can stick in center but I'm just not seeing it. His combination of power, patience, and speed should help him have a long career and possibly make an All-Star game or two. A good comp I like to use is Nate McLouth.

RPR:. Chad Bettis has produced since drafted and was outstanding in the second half of 2011 (High-A Modesto). Is he someone who could be in Denver as soon as the second half of 2012 or will AA prove to be all he can handle for now? Do you see him as more no. 2/3 starter quality or a reliever?

Mitchell: I only see him reaching Colorado in 2012 if he is needed in the pen. With that said, I believe he stays in the rotation and sees time in AAA with the hopes of him joining the Colorado rotation sometime in 2013. I definitely see him as a starter. His sinker/slider combo will work fine in Colorado but I do believe he needs another year to work on his change-up and command.

RPR:. The Rockies have some bats with good power but they come with questions too. MLB starters or not down the road - Kyle Parker, Kent Matthes & Corey Dickerson?

Mitchell: I think Parker has the best chance thanks to his power bat and power arm. Matthes looks like the fourth outfielder but one with a very good bat. Dickerson is the furthest away and, although he put up crazy numbers in 2011, he has his home park to thank and only hit .193/.280/.363 away. His defense is below-average as well.

RPR:. Two prospect sleepers - Josh Rutledge (SS/2B) and Edwar Cabrera (LHP) - Will they continue impressing and pass through Double-A in 2012 or struggle with the advanced competition?

Mitchell: This season will be the ultimate test for Cabrera. If Cabrera can come close to what he did last season scouts cannot point to his "lack of stuff" and we have to take him seriously as a prospect and he could find himself in AAA by year's end. Rutledge still has time if he happens to take a step back and plays an up-the-middle position so there will be more patience with him. I bet Rutledge finishes the year in AA no matter what and Cabrera has to starts there and his results determine where he winds up.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baseball America underestimating Arenado's power

Rockies' top hitting prospect Nolan Arenado
Baseball America's newest Top 100 Prospects list has Rockies' top prospect Nolan Arenado as the 41st best talent in the game. That's highly complementary but likely underselling who he will become.

Arenado, BA writes, will hit for a higher average than Ian Stewart, traded to the Chicago Cubs, but for less power. That is an assumption that will prove false. 

Arenado will be a better overall hitter than Stewart, that's undeniable but Arenado will develop into a solid power batsman and with his consistency, he will hit more home runs, more consistently than Stewart, who might soon become a journeyman.

Arenado is not an all-or-nothing hitter. He hits for average, produces doubles in addition to homers and just doesn't strike out much.

He is going to become a solid major league player.

He hasn't faced a season of Double-A pitching but the signs point to him succeeding against it in 2012. He might struggle early but he will warm up as the season goes along as he usually does.

Currently, I project Arenado to have a long MLB career if injuries don't steal his availability or talent. I see him as a plus-starter (forget WAR), who should be a doubles machine with more power than expected.

He could look very similar to a young Jeff Cirillo or maybe even Garrett Atkins in his prime (2005-2008).

Both of those players hit for average and were highly productive for a period of their careers. Both were not elite-level power sources but both combined doubles and homers to plate runners. The firm belief here is that Arenado will do the same, be as good.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Story debut creating high expectations

Trevor Story's 2011 has scouts excited

When prep shortstop Trevor Story was drafted as a compensation pick in 2011, he was considered an attractive prospect (scholarship to traditional power LSU) with questions about his bat. One short-season summer later, scouts and analysts are in love with Story as a potential 5-tool player. Will Story live up to that promise?

The Texas native hit .268 at rookie league Casper with 8 doubles, 2 triples and 6 home runs while driving in 28 runs in 47 games. He struck out 41 times but also drew 26 walks. He has talent, that's not questioned. He has potential, that's certain, but is he a potential star or high-level regular in the making? That is way too early to assume.

He was the Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report top prospect for Casper (Pioneer League) however, with the questions about his bat, pre-draft and a sample size of 47 pro games, much more needs to be shown before Story is as valuable as many analysts are making him. One scout, though, courtesy of Baseball Draft Report, made a Marco Scutaro offensive comp with Story.

Another analyst, Matt Garrioch of the Major League Prospect Guide, makes a (new Rockie) Michael Cuddyer comp.

In time, he could become a serviceable MLB third baseman with solid defense and average power or a second baseman at the MLB level with good defensive capabilities and plus power. The big question is will Story make enough contact, hit for enough average to reach Coors (or any other organization's big-league park) and once there, hit for acceptable average.

Story is a prospect to dream on, not necessarily count on yet.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Look for talent plus production in Rockies' prospects

Don't sleep on Rutledge as a prospect
Scouts look for tools and then use their experience to project success or failure. What often gets overlooked is what happens with the bottom line after a player is drafted and/or signed. Does that player produce? Tools don't matter much if a player doesn't know how to use them.

Proof is the dump where many future "superstars" litter the grounds, promise unfulfilled.

That's even happened with Rockies' prospects. Remember the name Derrick Gibson? Tremendous talent with power and speed but outside of a cup of coffee in the majors, he busted out. John Burke, Cherry Creek grad and first round pick out of the University of Florida? Reached the majors and busted out. There have been others.

Looking at other lists of Rockies' prospects you will see productive players like Josh Rutledge, Kyle Parker, Kent Matthes and Edwar Cabrera seriously undervalued while struggling players like Hector Gomez, Tyler Matzek and Wilin Rosario are overvalued. You see a middling talent, although first-round draft pick in Tyler Anderson already being thought of as a top-5 or top-10 Rockies' prospect.

Personally, I'll take a player who has some positive track record in the minors over a talent like Anderson. If you want to take an elite draftee like a Trevor Bauer or Dylan Bundy and say he's a top prospect, fine but doing that with a player that was compared to former Rockie Jeff Francis? Puzzling. Maybe I'm wrong and Anderson turns into Tom Glavine, a soft-tossing but competitive, precise, consistent and star pitcher. For now, it says here, Anderson is behind players I still consider prospects - Drew Pomeranz, Alex White (not enough of a track record as a MLB pitcher yet to lose his prospect status), Chad Bettis and Edwar Cabrera. I even rank Anderson behind some relief prospects for now.

Some lists are also making a mistake in ranking 2011 draftee Trevor Story too high based on his debut at Casper. Story is a fine prospect, the best Pioneer League prospect for the Rockies but that sample size is too small and Story's bat, which is earning him praise, was his biggest question mark when drafted. Time might prove that to be accurate. If Story hits again in 2012, then his status should soar. He is talented and one to watch but he's not a not-10 prospect at this time.

Tools are indeed important when it comes to competing against the best but a player has to produce and if he does, he's a superior prospect to the toolsy player who can't figure out how to get things done, and consistently during games.

So consider that philosophy as you think on prospects and their futures.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rockies should have had Pirates' no. 2 prospect

Rockies miss badly by passing on Josh Bell
When the Rockies selected Greg Reynolds number 2 overall, it was a bad pick the moment it was decided and announced. It just had not yet been proven.

In 2011, suffering through a season of injury and ineffectiveness of most of it's starting pitching, the Rockies decided to use it's number one pick in the June amateur draft for Tyler Anderson, a left-hander from the University of Oregon in the first round. That too was a very poor choice, just not likely as disastrous a selection as Reynolds at no. 2 in his draft when Tim Lincecum (two Cy Young Awards), Clayton Kershaw (the 2011 Cy Young Award winner) and Evan Longoria were all available.

The Rockies and other analysts believe Anderson can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Maybe he will develop into exactly that, although I have my doubts when the club itself compared him to former Rockie Jeff Francis, who outside of one 17-win season, was much more a back-end starter, even before injury.

Texas prep outfielder and outstanding bat prospect Josh Bell was the pick the Rockies should have budgeted for and signed, just as lowly Pittsburgh did, even though Bell was thought to be unsignable.

And now Fangraphs has listed Bell as the Pirates no. 2 prospect, only behind no. 1 overall pick (2011 draft) Gerrit Cole, a power pitcher, and ahead of highly-drafted pitcher Jameson Taillon.
2. Josh Bell, OF
BORN: Aug. 14, 1992
ACQUIRED: 2011 2nd round, Texas HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA
Bell’s ceiling matches Cole’s but, unlike the star pitching prospect, he won’t be playing in Pittsburgh any time soon. The outfielder was a first-round talent (possibly Top 5) based solely on his skill set but he was considered the toughest of tough signs away from his commitment to the University of Texas. A switch-hitter, he isn’t afraid to use the whole field and has raw power to all fields, as well. Bell could hit 25-30 home runs in his prime. Defensively he should be at least average in right field but could develop into a plus fielder. He’ll likely head to low-A ball to begin 2012 unless the organization decides he needs a little extra seasoning in extended spring training. He should move one level at a time and could surface at the big league level in 2015 – about the time this organization should be ready to field a playoff-worthy club.
The Yankees didn't sign Bell, the Red Sox, Dodgers or Angels didn't either. The Pirates did.

Time, I say, will prove the Rockies erred again. Anderson could eventually help, maybe even long term. He might become a trade chip too that brings back greater value but Bell is the superior prospect and the Rockies allowed him to get away. They will almost assuredly regret it, if not already, then down the road.

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