Comps are stupid.
Let’s just get that out there right from the top.
A comp is a comparison. Comps start with a player that you, the reader, probably don’t know much about. In this case, that player is Cardinals’ first round draft pick Michael McGreevey. To help you, the reader, understand that player and their talent, I, the writer, study the player’s defining characteristics – physical attributes, pitch types, scouting reports, etc. – and go hunting for a well-known major leaguer that seems similar.
They’re stupid because they immediately create unrealistic and unfair expectations.
I could say, for example, that Michael McGreevey is tall – 6’4”. Just like Jack Flaherty!
I could say that he throws a good sinker. Well, so does Dakota Hudson!
His slider is already really good. In-his-prime Carlos Martinez had a really good slider!
He has a developing curveball that might end up as his best pitch. Adam Wainwright’s best pitch is also a curve!
And he doesn’t walk anyone. A healthy [redacted] doesn’t walk anyone either! (Who is [redacted]? See below.)
Based on those comps, McGreevey is the freakish lovechild of Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright and [redacted]!
He’s the greatest pitcher who ever lived.
Obviously, I’m being ridiculous. At the same time, if I comped McGreevey to any one of those players by themselves – all very successful (at times) major league pitchers – I’m probably creating unrealistic expectations for a mid-to-late first-round talent.
The Cardinals would thank their lucky charms if McGreevey turns out as good as any one of those players.
At the same time, if I comp him too low fans will scoff at the pick, devalue McGreevey, or say I’m not representing the talent he has.
I could say, for example, that McGreevey’s fastball/slider combo is reminiscent of Mitchell Boggs. (Woohoo?)
And if his velocity doesn’t continue to rise, he could end up as a control pitcher who can’t strike anyone out. Like Brad Thompson. (Please no.)
Also, a lot of these “high-floor college arm” picks reach the majors but don’t make an impact. So, McGreevey could be the next Chris Lambert. (Who?)
Do you see why comps are stupid? At the end of the day, all anyone can really tell you is that Michael McGreevey comps somewhere between Chris Lambert and Adam Wainwright.
I’m way out on a limb here…
It’s better to just read up on the draft and scouting reports and forget about comps. Like the excellent one written up earlier this week by VEB’s own A.E. Schaffer. Go read that if you haven’t.
Obviously, I’m not taking my own advice about comps in this article. There are three reasons I’m doing this. The first is that I need something to write about and I don’t care about the All-Star game. Second, because McGreevey’s repertoire honestly intrigues me and I think the initial reaction to him by some fans on the internet was overly pessimistic. Third, the internet is already full of Michael McGreevey comps that make no sense and that annoys me.
So, maybe this isn’t completely unnecessary, but I still think comps are stupid. Let’s comp McGreevey anyway!
Here’s what I centered on: McGreevey was drafted as a starting pitcher prospect with excellent command/control. He relies primarily on a sinking fastball that’s a little low on velocity. He’ll couple that sinker with two primary secondary (yes, I wrote that and then drew unnecessary attention to it instead of editing it) options in a slider and curveball with a spotty change.
Considering the Cardinals’ success in drafting and developing right-handed pitchers, their historic love affair with high-floor college starters, and their long obsession with pitch-to-contact arms, it really shouldn’t be hard to find a player who kinda sorta looks like that.
Except it was. And that’s probably why I saw so many unsatisfactory comps rolling around Twitter.
Like Dakota Hudson.
That one made some sense at first glance, considering Hudson’s sinking fastball and his fast-moving, high-floor draft stock. McGreevey also throws a sinker and is expected to quickly reach the majors. Both players throw sliders and had developing curveballs.
The problem with comping Hudson to anyone is that his best trait is an outlier. Hudson’s sinker is one of the best in the game. He throws it extremely hard for a starter and can generate top-of-the-league ground ball rates with it. He also has displayed terrible control at the major league level.
That alone makes him a poor comp for McGreevey. Control is probably McGreevey’s most obvious defining attribute.
So… McGreevey is Hudson if his sinker wasn’t so amazingly good and his control so amazingly bad.
That just means McGreevey isn’t Hudson.
The excellent control profile did get me thinking though. Are there any righties who match McGreevey’s physical profile and pitch types who have really good command and control?
I immediately thought of [redacted].
Who is [redacted]? Every time I write about [redated], the player gets hurt. Literally. I wrote an article about him this spring and he immediately went out with shoulder weakness. The same day. The day he returned to action this May, I wrote about him again. He couldn’t finish his one start.
It has become apparent to all that I have been gifted a terrible and glorious power over [redacted]. Therefore, VEB commenters told me not to write about him ever again. In full acceptance of my power and awesome responsibility, I decreed that I shall not utter in digitally printed form the name of [redacted] in any article, post, or fluff piece for now and until the end of eternity. Let all of Viva El Birdos be witness to my pledge to use my incredible powers only for good and tremble at my humility and merciful restraint!
Anyway, [redacted] doesn’t walk anyone – his walk rate as a Cardinal is just 3.9%. That’s another outlier that I’m hesitant to saddle McGreevey with, but at least it fits with his college scouting reports.
[Redacted] also has a fastball/slider/curve combo with an occasional change. He’s 6’4” with an easy delivery – very similar to McGreevey.
The problem with this comp is that [redacted] primarily throws a 4-seam fastball with pretty high velocity for a starter. He sits around 94 mph when he isn’t sitting in the training room. McGreevey throws a 2-seamer and he currently sits around 90-92.
So, there are a lot of physical and style similarities here, but the differences in fastball type and velocity are too much to ignore for a comp.
Another name mentioned a few times on social media was former Cardinals starter and high draft pick Luke Weaver. Weaver had a high floor and was expected to move quickly. Weaver, though, throws a fastball and a change. That pretty much kills him as an accurate comp for McGreevey.
Another name frequently mentioned was Jack Flaherty. First, it’s completely unfair to compare a high-floor college pick to a dynamic talent like Flaherty. Second, he’s not a good match. Flaherty does throw a slider but he has a 4-seamer at pretty high velocity and generates a lot of Ks. Based on what I see now, there’s little chance that McGreevey can match his swing-and-miss stuff.
It was surprising to me how hard it was to find a Cardinal draft pick comp who threw a 2-seam fastball. Yes, they’ve drafted high-floor arms but they’ve really moved away from sinker/slider combos in the post-LaRussa era, at least with their high draft picks.
So, not surprisingly, I had to go all the back to a LaRussa era draft pick to find a better comp.
That player is Dan Haren.
Let’s start with the problems with Haren as a comp. The first is that he wasn’t with the Cardinals that long, so we saw the best of him somewhere else. The second is that his pitch repertoire changed significantly over his career. Haren began his career throwing a low-90s sinker plus a slider and a curve. He had a show-me change and a lightly-used splitfinger. When he moved to Oakland, the A’s dumped the curve and had him throw the splitfinger more. As Haren aged, his slider adapted into a cutter.
For the first half of his career, then, Haren is a very good match for McGreevey. He was a low 90s sinkerballer with a slider and a third breaking option (either a curve or splitter but not both). He had excellent command/control, generated solid ground ball rates, and had ok for-his-era K rates. Until he changed his slider to a cutter, Haren’s K/9 was 6.98. His BB/9 was 2.21. His era was 3.82. FIP was 3.97 and he produced 13.4 fWAR in 781 innings. That’s an average of 3.4 fWAR per 200 IP/30 GS. His ground ball rate was 44.8%.
For the first half of his career, Haren was a command and control sinkerballer, who topped out as a consistent #2/3-caliber innings eater. We have to make some adjustments for the difference in era, but that’s about where my hopes for McGreevey would land.
Dan Haren didn’t stay that pitcher. He adapted, started striking out more batters with his cutter and splitfinger while only improving his control. That turned a #3 starter into perennial ace. Haren ended his career just behind Adam Wainwright in career WAR.
And you can see why comps so easily break down. Even if we can narrow our comps to one player, the implied outcomes are still pretty broad. Basically, I just said that McGreevey is going to either have a few average-ish years as a starter or end up as a near Hall of Famer. Got it!
In the end, all I am saying is that there are notable similarities in pitching type, physical stature, and pitching style between McGreevey and Haren. I can make absolutely no promises about results.
That said, I would put a #2/3 starter ceiling on him and I think there’s a good chance he reaches and sticks at the major league level in some capacity.
It’s too bad my glorious powers are limited only to [redacted] and not comping draft picks!