Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Moore offers improved player comparison formula

Jeff Moore gives Nolan Arenado player comparisons
There is nothing like the player comparison when a hot young prospect, in any sport, is arriving or developing at the pro level. Our imaginations love to think over what a favored player could eventually turn out to be and the best case scenario is what is most desirable.

One man has gone way beyond the first-thought-that-comes-into-your-head approach to doing player comparisons. 

Jeff Moore, a former college baseball player and coach and creator of MLB Prospect Watch, digs deep into research and uses a special formula when evaluating talent to come up with what he believes is a more accurate assessment of comparison.

He spoke to Rockies' Analyst about the theory and process and also discussed Rockies' top hitting prospect Nolan Arenado. 

The player comp - why do we as fans love it?

It's a natural inclination to want to know what types of players prospects are going to be.  The average fan might not know the difference between average or plus power, but they know what to expect when you say "the next Todd Helton." 

We so often hear this player is the next (compared to big star) and that almost never happens. How can we find a formula that better determines a comp? What haven't we known that we need to know to be more accurate in comparing players?

The problem with most comps is that they are done either based on superficial qualities (the organization they're in, the position they play, race, etc.) or are done based on one tool only, like speed or power.  What really needs to be examined are the question marks that a player has between being a prospect and becoming a player. 

Why do you believe your formula is a better way?

In a word, detail.  My comparisons consider all of those question marks that a prospect has about his abilities and what kind of development the player might have if they don't work out.

What I do is consider four possibilities to create what I call a "window comparison." I'm looking for the best-case scenario, a realistic ceiling, a realistic floor, and a worst-case scenario.

The best-case scenario can't be ridiculous.  When I did my comp of Mike Stanton, I couldn't say he could end up being Albert Pujols.   They have one major difference - Stanton strikes out a ton despite his production whereas Pujols does not - to keep them from ever being similar types of players.

What I'm looking for are players who have the same attributes and fit the same mold (position, size, body type, etc.) and find players who have had varying levels of success. 

Can you share comps of some of the top young prospects in the game? Maybe a Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Matt Moore?

I did an in-depth comparison for The Hardball Times on Mike Trout when he got called up for the first time last summer.  You can find it at http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/making-the-comparison-mike-trout/.

My window comp was was Rickey Henderson as a high-end ceiling with his more realistic floor and ceiling as Cesar Cedeno and Marquis Grissom, respectively, and his worst-case scenario being Darren Lewis.

You can read the article for the full explanation into how I got to those players, but at worst he'll be a strong center fielder and base stealer as plate discipline usually translates well, so he should draw some walks at the major league level, leaving only his hitting and power as the question marks.  This window comp takes a look at the end results if his hitting and power develop in different ways.

As for the other two, I haven't researched them in-depth, but off the top of my head, the first person that comes to mind for Bryce Harper is Reggie Jackson, due to the power/strikeout combination they both have.

For Moore, the players I think of are Sid Fernandez or what Erik Bedard was becoming his best seasons with the Orioles before injuries derailed his career. 

Can you offer a comp for Rockies' top prospects Nolan Arenado and Drew Pomeranz? (and anyone else like Chad Bettis, Tim Wheeler?)

My next in-depth comparison is on Arenado (click link). 

Does your research on comps ever surprise you? Do you have an example?

Absolutely.  Take the Trout comp, for instance.  I had no idea Cedeno was that good.  I kept looking for justification for picking a better player for Trout until I realized just how good Cedeno actually was.  I find myself learning a lot about players who played before my time. 

What is the biggest risk in comparing players?

Mostly just that it's impossible to actually be correct. No two players are the same, so you can never actually get these things right.  My goal isn't to be right though. I'm just trying to give fans a better understanding of who these players are before they get to the majors, what it is that could go right or wrong in their careers, and why players sometimes don't pan out.

Part II

Moore's player comp for Arenado had highlights, which I will detail for you. To read the whole evaluation, click here.

*Fangraphs sees Arenado's production as more legitimate than most in the offensive playground that is the High-A California League, where Arenado just graduated.

*Aramis Ramirez (two-time All Star and power hitter) is the first name mentioned as a high-end player comp.

*Mike Lowell was mentioned as a more realistic player comp.

*Tim Wallach, the former Denver Bear and long-time major league player was picked as a low-end realistic comp.

*David Bell was chosen as the worst-case scenario player comp.

Read the article for a much more detailed explanation of the method and greater understanding.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What is Jordan Pacheco's likely outcome

Jordan Pacheco will provide value in 2012
What kind of player is Rockies' prospect Jordan Pacheco likely to become?

The franchise's front office and manager Jim Tracy appear to see great value in the utility player, especially valuing his bat. That Pacheco didn't embarrass himself last summer in the 21 games he played with the big league club, hitting .286 with two homers and 14 RBI, certainly helped the Rockies be open minded about his prospects this spring and Pacheco certainly hasn't disappointed, hitting over .400.

But is the 26-year old man without a position that good?

The former ninth-round pick from the 2007 June MLB Amateur draft has definitely hit in the minor leagues, with highlights being 2009 and 2010. In 2009 at Low-A Asheville, Pacheco was outstanding, ending the season at .322 with 30 doubles and 13 home runs while driving in 79 runs.

He also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts and showed excellent, Nolan Arenado-type plate discipline (38 K's, 44 walks).

The next season, at High-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa, Pacheco again excelled, hitting a combined .323 with 32 doubles, six homers and 89 RBI, while walking more (60) than he struck out (42). At the age of 24, he wasn't young enough to be considered a star prospect but he wasn't so old that he could be discounted as an "organizational" player. He had prospect value.

In 2011 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, the light on Pacheco dimmed as he hit an uncharacteristically low .278 with 21 doubles and three home runs while driving in but 50 runs. He also struck out more (48) times than he walked (48), a change that along with his lower average creates a cause for concern. Was he suddenly over his head, the competition too strong for his talent and mind?

Likely not.

The question becomes, however, is Pacheco a future starter with a difference-making hit tool or is he something less than that?

He appears to be confident at the plate and knowing he has the support of the club he will play even more confident. He will make the team, he will be a reliable contributor. He should be able to produce an average around .290 - .300 annually with some doubles power as a backup and part-time starter. His home run capabilities are not likely to be much more than what he's shown in the minors. Defensively, he's a work in progress.

Could he eventually be the starter at second base? Maybe, but not likely.

Prospect Josh Rutledge is a better talent and one on the come, although an underrated and undervalued player by many scouts and prospects' lists. Rutledge, however, is not ready for the majors. Pacheco is and he will prove a useful piece in 2012.

I foresee a long career for him, although one that might take him to a few or handful of teams.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Former top pick Friedrich back to minors

Christian Friedrich struggling towards majors

The Rockies still believe in pitching prospect Christian Friedrich. Or maybe better said, they are still "hoping" on him.

Friedrich, the club's no. 1 pick in the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft, has been reassigned to the minors to work on his game, to bring it up to MLB quality.

Friedrich has had troubles finding answers to the challenges of reaching the Rockies the last two seasons at Double-A Tulsa and because of that has fallen considerably in prospect status by many who review minor league players.

The Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report is no different, seeing Friedrich as a MLB reliever and spot starter at best anymore and even that is not a guarantee at this time. The CRPR would have to honestly classify Friedrich as a fringe MLB player heading into 2012.

The 24-year old lefthander was MLB.com's no. 23 overall prospect and one of the best pitchers amongst that group after his 2009 season when he went 6-5 with a 2.41 ERA at two Single-A stops, totaling 159 strikeouts (12 per 9 innings) while registering a nearly 4-to-1 K/BB rate.

However, he has gone just 9-16 combined the last two seasons, with an ERA over 5.00.

Friedrich has to prove himself worth noticing again because at this point he's an afterthought in the pool of Rockies' pitching prospects. His body type and potential are impressive but Friedrich has to apply them and produce positive results consistently or risk becoming a side item, as in a "throw-in" in a future trade.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Is Rendon or Arenado a more premium prospect


Nationals' star prospect Rendon compared to Arenado
The question was asked on another website, who's a better third base prospect, the Rockies' top bat, Nolan Arenado or 2011 high draftee Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals. The question asked wasn't the right one?

The right question is can both of those players live up to the hype and be career difference makers at the major league level?

Rendon was judged the best talent in last year's draft before a shoulder injury dropped his status. He was still the sixth overall pick. Arenado meanwhile posted a eye-popping line of a .298 average with 32 doubles and 20 homers while driving in 122 runs, all at the age of 20, at High-A Modesto in the (hitter friendly) California League.

Rendon is considered a safe bet to become a high-average hitter with average-to-good power and solid RBI potential. He will have to move off third in Washington as Rendon will be ready for the majors relatively soon and All Star Ryan Zimmerman is an anchor at the hot corner.

Rockies' top batting hope Nolan Arenado
Arenado is a career .302 hitter in the minors, with outstanding plate discipline and emerging power. He's playing and excelling at pro ball. Rendon has yet to taste the pay-for-play and has to prove he can stay healthy.

Arenado could one day move to first base and that would not surprise me but for now, no one will stop him from playing third for the Rockies if his bat continues to pass his minor league (stops) exams.

In the end, both are exciting prospects and yes, premium ones as well. No need to pick who's best.

Instead hope for both to stay healthy because if they do Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report believes Rendon and Arenado will be outstanding hitters, capable of All-Star appearances and better yet, players who can be dangerous hitters in the middle of their respective lineups for years.

Their floors are low, their ceilings high. If they fall shy of their ceilings they both will still be above-average producers.


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Friday, March 9, 2012

Rockies' farm system underrated

Drew Pomeranz part of bumper crop
Fangraphs believes the Rockies' minor league system is below average, ranking it the 21st best organization in the majors.

Many franchises have talented players in their system but the idea that the Rockies' don't have quality and quantity in theirs is not well reasoned. Not only do I rank the Rockies' having the best collection of talent they have ever had, I believe it is one of the top 15 groups in the game, maybe even better.

Here's why I make that claim. Most Rockies' fans know of third baseman Nolan Arenado and his bat and big lefthander Drew Pomeranz and his quick rise to the majors. What they may not be equally aware of are the fact that righthander Chad Bettis looks every bit the major league pitcher, Edwar Cabrera has the markings of a back-end-of-the-rotation starter, Joe Gardner looks like a solid reliever in development and Kyle Parker, Kent Matthes, Josh Rutledge and Corey Dickerson have strong chances to stick as big league bats. Trevor Story could be another one.

Never have the Rockies had that many players with above-average potential and I doubt many other teams have that kind of quality and quantity. The Rockies might lack the elite prospect but they have plenty of good ones. Maybe scouts and media publications are not seeing it but I promise you the Rockies' front office is very happy with their farm system and with good reason.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Third-round draft pick Weatherford released

Injury takes Weatherford's career 
The Colorado Rockies have released Aaron Weatherford, the club's third-round pick in the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft, according to a Kevin Goldstein tweet

Weatherford (25), a righthanded pitcher from Mississippi State only gave the Rockies 18 games and 27 innings before shoulder problems proved to be his undoing. He showed promise in a small sample size (36 strikeouts and only 15 hits allowed in 27 frames) but has not pitched since 2009 at Single-A stops Tri-City and Asheville.

In that 2008 draft the Rockies selected Eastern Kentucky lefthanded pitcher Christian Friedrich (played at Double-A Tulsa in 2011) in the first round and Georgia Tech outfielder Charlie Blackmon in the second.

Interestingly enough the Angels took California prep pitcher Tyler Chatwood, now a Rockie, two picks after Colorado selected Blackmon.

In the third, the Rockies grabbed Weatherford no. 103 overall after the Braves found and tabbed Craig Kimbrel (46 saves and a 2.10 ERA in 2011) at no. 96.

The Phillies took Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01 ERA in 2011) at 102 and the Red Sox selected pitcher Kyle Weiland (now a promising Houston Astros' prospect) at 108.

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*Photo courtesy of Tony Farlow, team photographer, Asheville Tourists