as i write this, i am watching a baseball game in which one team has started pedro feliz at third base and has just brought aaron miles in to pinch hit (he popped out on the infield, shocking those in attendance). the manager for the aforementioned team appears to have ongoing higher brain function and at least a passing familiarity with baseball. now, both feliz and miles are playing on the infield AT THE SAME TIME.
what on earth do you think albert is thinking as he looks around the infield and sees pedro feliz at third, felipe lopez at short, and aaron miles at second? "i have arrived in the eighth circle of hell" [except in spanish]?
i guarantee that it is not: "i should sign a below-market value contract for the next eight or so years so that i can ensure that this continues to happen to me." [except in spanish]
we will likely never know what induced john mozeliak to trade for pedro feliz, nor what induced tony to start him last night, batting FIFTH. so for both of you, john, tony: how to be dumb. on that note, i cannot bear to write further about the unspeakable event that occurred of late this week. so let's talk about what's coming up.
we had a great draft this year, with major signings on monday. the 2010 draft and a year of upheaval at the prospect level has left the mix of up-and-coming prospects in a state of flux. so i am going to write down some names of important prospects and hey there are numbers in front of those names.
i would not take the numbers terribly seriously for most of the cases. weighing a prospect's value may include lots of things. talent "ceiling," talent "floor," positional scarcity, proximity to the majors, etc. the way those factors are weighed and the way they are measured are both highly subjective. that said, these things tend to amuse or give rise to good discussion.
1. shelby miller - despite all the caveats above, i don't think this one is up for serious debate. shelby has done nothing but exactly what he's supposed to, and has had ridiculous success at quad cities to the tune of an 11.44 K/9 rate and a 2.81 BB/9 rate. unless you are jeff gordon, in which case his 7-5 record is a huge disappointment; that is, if you cared about prospects). a note: the careful pace that the club has taken with shelby, both in keeping him at quad cities and extreme care with pitch counts and inning loads, strongly suggest he is NOT a future trade chip. if he were a wallace-like trade chip, they'd be pushing him to high levels and trying to pump his value up that way. this is the careful pace of a car owner who wants his car to last 200,000 miles. be patient - we may not see him till 2013 or 2014. fun with MLEs: shelby miller's current MLE FIP: 5.51; jeff suppan's actual FIP: 5.23.
2. zack cox - by contrast, the three million dollar man is a close-to-finished product. picking up some time in the GCL and the Arizona Winter League, we will see him at spring training next year. i doubt we'll see him in the majors before 2012, but he may move very quickly. the focus in the minors will likely be on his defense, both in selecting a future destination for him between 3b and 2b, and in improving his defensive skills, which have long played a second fiddle to his offensive skills. he may be the best bat in the draft, but it would be great if he developed into a good defender on the infield.
3. matt carpenter - an aggressive slot for someone who was not on most top twenty lists last year, carpenter 2: the carpening has moved very quickly through the minors and has hit at every level (currently hitting for an OPS of .954 at Springfield). an excellent fielder, his defense could translate immediately to third; it's probably a good idea to give him and his bat the rest of the year to develop. like cox, we'll see him at spring training. his destination will be determined by how he does at ST, whether we make any off-season acquisitions, and whether david freese can keep his ankle healthy (i am not betting on that last one). in jupiter, chris will give him some tutorials in how to bring honor to the family name (death stare, using the word fuck 300 times daily, nifty tats, etc.). he may very well go north with the big club from spring training.
4. daniel descalso - descalso followed a good year with a decidedly okay year. currently sporting a .795 OPS in memphis, his numbers this year do not make him look like a future star (MLE .668). with average defense at an important position, he could be a role player in the future in an infield utility spot or a platoon (although he does not have an extreme split).
5. eduardo sanchez - after dominating at springfield (9.00 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9), the still-only-21-year-old has not yet adapted to memphis after 21 innings in AAA (8.53 K/9 and 4.74 BB/9). i feel sure that he will see his BB rate drop again once he gets some comfort level there. sanchez seems to be on track to join the big club sometime mid- to late next year. a stellar spring training could push that schedule up.
6. lance lynn - lance did not put together the year that many hoped for, though his peripherals were much better than his ERA might suggest: 7.06 K/9, 3.25 BB/9. i am more concerned that his GB rate took a big step back to 43% from 48% cumulatively last year. lynn has never been seen as a high-ceiling guy, but a club putting kyle lohse and jeff suppan out there on a regular basis just needs a guy who can do okay. see shelby's MLE up there? lance's MLE FIP this year was 5.46. last year it was 4.44. lance is better than this year's performance, but he will likely have to start next year at memphis again and wait for an opening in the big club. my suspicion is that he will bounce back just fine.
7. joe kelly - nobody quite knows whether kelly will stick as a starter or move to the bullpen, but he's done well with his assignments so far, amassing a 3.50 FIP to go with a 56.9% GB rate at quad cities. no one could have hoped for better. for a club without a good history of developing top-flight starters in house, kelly remains an interesting option.
8. carlos matias - if reading the value of low minors prospects is guesswork, reading international signings and DSL players is like divination. matias comes with some great raw talent, and nobody really knows where it will lead him. the good news is that the logistical barriers to his arrival in the US and with the organization seem to be limited to getting a visa at this point. he could be in the top 3 next year or out of the top twenty (see de la Cruz, Luis). as said before, a club so parched for good internal starting pitching prospects has to value even such a raw talent highly. the valuation of his talent shows the arbitrary nature of this exercise: contrast matias with descalso. descalso could join the club tomorrow and be serviceable but probably never a star; matias may never make it to palm beach, but he could be an all-star pitcher someday, too. how do you weight that or value that; how do you compare such different players? i have no idea.
9. adam reifer - older than sanchez at 24, reifer is the next best of the close-to-the-majors relief prospects. he's dominated springfield this year and shown much improved control. it will be interesting to watch him in memphis next year.
10. tommy pham - put together a very nice season (.966 OPS in AA) after years of promise. of all the outfield prospects, may have the best chance of being a more than bench player. as a RH hitter, would look nice in a platoon with our many left-handed hitters. hopefully, the recent injury does not cause any kind of setback.
11. tyler henley - sidelined by TJ surgery this year, i have no reason to think he won't return to form in 2011. good all-around talent; many think he's just a 4th OF, though.
12. tyrell jenkins - again with the hard to project talent. an "athletic" RHP with a lot of oomph in his arm. has a lot of big fans in the scouting community and was ranked 23rd overall for the draft by keith law.
13. adron chambers - speedy, good defender. solid hitter but no much power. seems like a good fit on the bench along with henley. can play all three spots. currently tearing up AAA based on a ridiculously lucky BABIP.
14. robert stock - stock had a frustrating year for a fellow who wants to stick at catcher. he's currently got an OPS of .578 at quad cities. he's still a young man; stock turns 21 in november. i'm sure the club will talk with him this winter about which end of the battery he'll be starting at next spring. if i had to guess, they'll give him much of next season to indulge his interest in catching, but by 2012 he'll need to have shown some promise behind the plate or he'll be pitching his 99 MPH fastballs from the mound.
15. david kopp - reads like a bit of a lance lynn projection; back end starter-type. could wash out or could make it. decent ground ball numbers, doesn't strike out many. with a little improvement, could be effective.
16. pete kozma - a frustrating talent who shows flashes of power and defensive wizardry (+19/150 at quad cities in 2008; +10/150 at springfield in 2009), only to drag into protracted slumps and error-prone play. still only 22, he has lots of room to develop.
17. aaron luna - started out at 2b, has been playing a lot of RF in the past couple seasons. nice power in his bat.
18. adam ottavino - lost in ottavino's subpar performance at the major league level were some very nice steps forward at AAA. he finished last season with great improvement that he carried over to this season. long difficulties with control gave way to a 2.22 BB/9 rate. then, his shoulder blew up on him. if ottavino can come back from injury, he still has great potential. it's sad that, in the middle of real improvement, he was struck down by shoulder problems.
19. tony cruz - last week you read my thoughts on cruz. i look forward to seeing what he does next year.
20. steve hill - hill's bat is great, but he does not have a position on a club with no DH, and with both LF and 1b filled. he is not a catcher going forward.
21. ryan jackson - i really like the glove. jackson has hit better than i thought he might, putting together a .705 OPS at quad cities. still, there's a long way from hitting only passably at quad cities to hitting in the majors.
22. francisco samuel - i'm about done waiting for his control to come around. instead, it seems to get worse season by season. his cumulative walk rate is 7.79 over three levels this year. while other guys - chris perez comes to mind - have worked through such control problems, samuel has not shown any real progress. he'll be 24 this winter. i think he's got one more season to get his walk rate below five, or the club is just going to move on.
23. daryl jones - huge setback year for djtools, OPSing .690 in a ridiculous hitters' park. he is quickly being swamped by a fresh group of outfield prospects. needs to show improvement quickly.
non-prospects - i am assuming that many formerly ranked prospects will no longer qualify as prospects. at any rate, i'm no longer thinking of them as such: anderson, salas, greene, freese, garcia, etc.
near misses/names to know: jordan swagerty (makes me think of jess todd); seth blair; xavier scruggs; daniel bibona; jason stidham; niko vasquez; arquimedes nieto, virgil hill.