Saturday, April 28, 2007

2007 Giants Prospects: Minor League Baseball Analyst Projections

I really like "Minor League Baseball Analyst" by Deric McKamey. It gives stats and projections and skill analyis that I don't see in other prospect books. It also gives a combined view of the prospects: he started out doing sabermetric work for fantasy baseball then took the scouting training provided by the MLB, so he combines the two perspectives into his analysis. Baseball America typically provides the scouting community's view whereas Baseball Prospectus gives more of a sabermetric view, though neither was purely that. I got all three books this season.

The 2007 edition added a new scale, which gives his estimation of the player's potential - hall of famer, elite, solid regular, average regular, platoon, and lower - plus a scale that estimates how close he is to attaining his potential, that is, the probability he will reach his potential. That is in addition to his prognosis of what he thinks is the prospect's potential position. And a whole bunch of other statistics plus some commentary on the player.

Last year I talked generically about what the Giants had in their system and I think I listed names but not who were considered starters and who were not, I left it to the reader to try to piece things together. But I was told by another blogger that it should be OK to put some names in there as well and discuss that without getting lawyers coming at me. I don't think he was a lawyer but here goes.

First, go out and buy the book if you like to learn more about prospects. It is cheap via, about $12, gives a lot of good specific info about each hitter and pitcher, like his repertoire of pitches, how good they are, or his abilities to hit for BA, power, speed, and defensively ability. There are Top lists galore, by team, for all, for fantasy purposes. It is great for fantasy league play and good for just following your favorite team's top prospects. I whole-heartedly recommend the book.

2007 Giants Prospects

The Giants actually have more position prospects than pitching prospects in the book: 20 vs. 13. However, it is in pitching that the Giants have more potential elite (9) players, though only 2 (Tim Lincecum of course, and Waldis Joaquin) vs. 1 (Angel Villalona natch). There, however, are no solid (rated 8) pitchers, however, but a number of position players rated that (Emmanuel Burriss; Eddy Martinez-Esteve; Sharlon Schoop).

Position Starters

There are 7 projected starters among position players:

  • Emmanuel Burriss: 2B (he is currently playing SS)
  • Kevin Frandsen: 2B
  • Freddie Lewis: CF
  • Eddy Martinez-Esteve: LF
  • Marcus Sanders: 2B
  • Sharlon Schoop: SS
  • Angel Villalona: 3B
Yeah, we are kind of top heavy in secondbasemen and lacking in C, 1B, and the OF.

There were a number of players named as platoon players. Travis Ishikawa, unsurprisingly, is considered a platoon player. However, very surprisingly, Nate Schierholtz is considered a platoon player in LF/RF. There are a few other platoon position players: Brian Horwitz (corner OF); David Maroul (3B/SS); Dan Ortmeier (corner OF); Pablo Sandoval (corner IF). Sandoval's and Ortmeier's stock fell a lot last season, both were viewed as potential starters in last year's first edition of the book.

Burriss is listed as the 14th best SS prospect and as one of the top in the minors in speed. Frandsen is rated the 11th best 2B prospect. EME is the 37th best OF prospect and one of the top in batting average. Marcus Sanders made the list for best in speed. And Villalona was the 9th best 3B prospect.

Starting Pitchers

There were 6 pitchers he thought could become starters:
  • Dan Griffin: he sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
  • Waldis Joaquin: he sees him as a potential #2 starter or perhaps setup reliever, given that he was out last season for, I believe, Tommy John surgery
  • Tim Lincecum: only sees him as a #2 starter or closer, but still sees him as one of the top prospects in all of the minors, plus near the very top for pitchers, only a handful above him
  • Pat Misch: sees him as a back of the rotation starter
  • Nick Pereira: sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
  • Clayton Tanner: sees him as a middle to back of the rotation starter
There were also two he viewed as potential closers, though not necessarily so, they could be setup as well: Billy Sadler and Merkin Valdez.

Despite Adam Cowart's great first pro season in 2006, he is only viewed, as best, as a setup reliever. Brian Anderson too, though he led the league in saves last season. Pat Misch he sees as a starter, but he was moved into the bullpen last year, and did well there in the AFL and thus far in AAA this season.

Giants Thoughts

Roster-wise and looking forward, if we use only our farm system, it looks like we have Eliezer Alfonzo at C, Niekro and Ishikawa platooning at 1B, Frandsen, Burriss, and Sanders battling for 2B, Villalona at 3B, Schoop at SS, EME in LF, Lewis in CF, and Linden and Schierholtz platooning in RF. I don't think Alfonzo can be more than a backup and obviously Villalona and Schoop are so far away right now. In the near future, I can see Niekro/Ishikawa at 1B, Frandsen at 2B, EME in LF, and Linden/Schierholtz sharing RF - I'm still skeptical about Lewis ever panning out.

For our starting pitching , we would have Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, and Sanchez in the first four spots. Griffin, Joaquin, Pereira, and Tanner will be battling for the 5th spot - of course, there is no 5th spot with Zito's contract. Thus the 5th spot starters will probably battle for relieving spots with Hennessey, Correia, and Taschner. In addition, Anderson, Cowart, Misch, Sadler, Valdez, and Wilson will be battling for a spot in the bullpen. Closer contenders include the leading contender, Brian Wilson, plus Valdez, Sadler, and Anderson, and I would consider Misch to be a contender too, based on how he is manhandling hitters since becoming a reliever. I like Jack Taschner as a dark horse for closer, I like his attitude and he learned from his mistake in off-season preparation last season and worked hard to make up for it.

Lefty Malo noted in a post at his blog last season about one prospect analyst's rule of thumb about farm systems: there are, at any time, about 4 future starters in your farm system. That wasn't true for a long time for the Giants farm system until Lowry and Cain advanced upward, but if I were to guess which four of the 33 covered in the book (technically, this rule of thumb would include players who are not longer rookie eligible but still playing in the minors, like Munter, for lack of a good example, I think he's done, it was just a magical year he had that season, and Linden), these are the four: Lincecum, Frandsen, Villalona, EME.

However, I think these following players will make the majors and contribute in some way (i.e. more than a cup of coffee but probably less than a starter): Burriss (could be starter), Horwitz (reserve), Ishikawa (platoon), Lewis (could be starter), Ortmeier (good 4th OF, speed and power on bench), Sanders (reserve MI), Schierholtz (could be starter), Schoop (should be starter, word is his defense is already high quality major league quality, the only question is whether he can hit enough), Anderson (setup), Cowart (setup, maybe starter), Joaquin (could be starter/setup), Misch (setup, dark horse closer), Pereira (could be starter), Sadler (setup, could be closer), Taschner (setup, dark horse closer), Valdez (setup, could be closer). I don't remember how regular relievers are classified under this rule of thumb, but I'm assuming they don't count, though arguably a setup reliever can be very valuable.

The Giants are continually rated as a below average farm system, but when they have re-loaded their pitching staff with good pitchers like Cain, Lowry, Sanchez, Correia, Hennessey, and soon Lincecum, Sadler, Misch, and Wilson, that leaves a lot of money that the Giants can spend on their position players. And if at least Villalona and another position prospect can pan out, then I would say that is better than most teams can say about how their farm system has filled out their roster.


  1. That 4 starters rule of thumb has always struck me as a little suspect. Looking at it from a macro view, that means that there are 120 future starters in the minors ever year. There are 390 starting positions in the majors. If an average future starter takes 4 years to develop (and i think it's just slightly less than that), you're talking about a 30% changeover in major league starters every 4 years. That seems high to me.

    Well, fortunately orgs like the Giants are out there bringing down the curve, because we haven't had 4 future big league starters in the system, 3 times out of the last 20 years (In 2003 and part of 2002 we had Cain, Lowry, Bonser and Liriano -- though on 60d DL -- in the system. I'm not sure I can come up with another such group after '85-6.)

    And really, Martin, you can't possibly seriously believe that even half of those guys are ever going to put on a major league jersey. That would be truly extraordinary.

  2. Yeah, seems like a lot to me too, and, thanks for pointing out, I'm not endorsing it as a rule of thumb, but I was, like Lefty, examining what that would mean for the Giants if this rule of thumb were true for the Giants.

    Also, you miss a certain key dimension to this rule of thumb: there is an overlap of years and prospects. As you noted, 4 years to develop (actually more like 5-6 years, but I quibble and some do it in shorter years so the average is probably around 4 years), so lets say you develop one per year, there is your 4 for that particular year, staggered over 4 years. That's only new 30 starters per year in the majors. Less if you account for it at 5 years to develop.

    Also, you forgot about the 14 DH starters in the AL plus, to me, starters mean players with a pretty set position, and I would count closers as that, which would add another 30 for a total of 434 starters.

    That would be under 7% turnover at the worse, which is not that bad, particularly with closers thrown in there.

    If you are a sticker and dismiss closers, that's still 30 out of 404 (including DH), or a little over 7% turnover, which is not much different, either way.

    OK, I'll admit the warm glow of optimism here with my list, but I will note that my threshold for this list is contribution to the majors that is more than a cup of coffee but less than starting. Munter already has done that (though he's probably not going to make it up there again the way he is going). So has Niekro, Alfonzo, and Linden.

    I still think most of the players (OK, not all) listed will contribute at least half or more season's worth of games when all is said and done. As I noted, this is a very easy and low threshold to make, even Calvin Murray would qualify and Foppert already has. All I noted was that they will contribute more than a cup of coffee, which as of now, is what Ortmeier has done thus far.

    I guess I shouldn't have included Taschner, he's already contributed a lot of time in 2005, so I can see his inclusion has muddied the waters. But I don't think I'm stretching reality too much saying this, these are players who have been highly touted or have done well enough in my opinion to get a chance up in the majors and contribute something more than a cup of coffee.

    I'm familiar with the odds of getting even half a season of contribution from a player, as I covered that in my study on the draft, and I understand that a number of these players I listed are below AA and thus very speculative to suggest that they will make the majors at all. However, a number of these have already made AA and AAA, so those players are not that big a stretch, I think, given what I've ready about them and/or seen of their stats.

  3. Oh, forgot to note, I don't know how lenient the 4 starter rule of thumb is. I doubt you counted Jerome Williams or Kurt Ainsworth or Jesse Foppert, but they all were starters for a significant part of a season or more and might count as starters under that rule of thumb. Or how about Damian Moss for the Braves, he pitched one season for them, then part of one for us before imploding.

    I suspect that the definition is probably a bit looser than what most people are thinking when they see this rule of thumb, does Feliz count as a starter last season or do you have to make free agency to be a starter who counts?

  4. Yeah if I count Bonser or Liriano I suppose I have to count Foppert and Williams. The dice is really still out. I would say a good place to begin, criteria-wise is players who earn a major league pension. If they don't do that, I'm not sure they need to be counted. And as far as starters goes, I would say arbitrarily that you need to show up to training camp with a starting position guaranteed at least once.

    Of the people mentioned, I would guess that Burriss, Horwitz, Ishikawa, Lewis, Ortmeier, Schoop, Anderson, Cowart, Valdez, Munter, and Perreira are all probably career minor leaguers. Sanders Schierholtz, Misch, Sadler, EME, Wilson all have some shot at earning a pension, particularly the relievers. Frandsen has a chance at earning a starting position, as we hope does Villalona. And of course there's Timmy Lincecum.

    Joaquin, well we just have to wait and see how the TJ recovery goes. He was very raw and a long way off before the elbow popped, and has lost valuable development time. Outlook not good. As for dark horses, I'll throw Thomas Neal out. He had offseason shoulder surgery but is one of the very few Giants farmhands with some power potential. it would be great to see somebody (Michael McBryde?) take a great leap, we've all been waiting a long long time for a bat to come up and Thrill us.

  5. Don't know when a pension kicks in, what's the service time necessary? I don't have the CBA handy right now. I assume it is more than 3 years, in which case, yeah, most of the names I threw out probably won't make that criteria.

    I guess I'm different, I follow the Greg Linton's, Steve Scarsone's, Randy Elliott's, Joe Strain, Guy Sularz, Mike Aldrete, Mark Leonard, Steve Decker, players small and smaller, who have come up and caught my attention as a Giants fan. I guess that's the way I adjusted to the 70's when the team didn't really do much of anything, too bad to be good, too good to be bad, just mediocre.

    "valuable development time"? Joaquin's only 20 years old. Liriano lost development time as well but seems to have adjusted. Same with Joe Nathan. I agree that TJ is a huge obstacle, but he had a lot of potential, raw as it may have been.

    Odd that you labeled all those players career minor leaguers despite pretty good performances in the minors by them, but then throw out Thomas Neal's name as a dark horse, and he barely did anything in Salem-Keizer. You remind me of this guy I used to know at a site I used to write for, he saw a lot of potential in Brad Vericker and Jason Columbus but nothing redeeming at all in Travis Ishikawa, but both those players are long gone out of the system already and Ishikawa is still around.

    I will admit, however, that Ishikawa is barely there right now, suffering through another wretched season at Dodd Stadium, which will probably put the pentultimate nail into his coffin of a major league career, much like it did the Mayor of Norwich.

    If you'll notice, I didn't include him in the list of players who I thought would contribute more than a cup of coffee. He was only noted as the logical platoon buddy of Niekro, based solely on who we have in the system. I think he still has a chance, but I don't think his chances of making the majors is that good anymomre, Dodd Stadium put an end to that dream for him, as his stats there this season is horrible.

    Not that he's the best prospect around, or even a top prospect, but he was good enough and it's not like the Giants have them coming out of their ears. I hate to see them waste one just because of a ballpark. I put this up there with their poor roster management that allowed Coutlangus to go to the Reds and Burres to the Orioles. It's fine if we have so many that we can waste some and still do good, but we are not at that point yet to throw away any promising prospects.

    About getting a Thrill, be careful what you wish for: the only reason we got Will the Thrill was because we went 66-96 the season before and "earned" the 2nd pick overall of the 1985 draft. Our poorer 1985 season earned us Matt Williams the next draft, so we were able to rebuild quickly after that. A few teams rebuild quickly and return to the playoffs quickly, as we did in 1987, like the Marlins after their two fire-sales. Others take a bit longer, as the Braves and A's did before their current long run of success. Still others take longer, like the Tigers recently. However, some still dream about it, like the Royals and Pirates, they have gotten numerous high picks and they are still struggling after over a decade of poor records. Hopefully it won't take a total meltdown to get another Thrill from a hitter, because there's no guarantee that we will recover after the meltdown.

  6. Waldis is still just 20 and that's very good. But he has pitched very sparingly, is still very raw, and won't pitch much this year either. You're probably right to compare him to Liriano, except that he had performed exceptionally well in the Sally at 18 -- so he was ahead of Waldis on the development scale.

    I know the argument you're talking about regarding Ishikawa and Vericker (in fact I know who you had it with and I almost never find myself in agreeance with him), but I would say in this case I'm much closer to your side of the argument. Ishikawa at that point had put up some very very disappointing numbers in the Sally but was still on the prospect radar because scouts loved his tools. Vericker and Columbus were exactly the opposite. Neal is still young (and was one of the youngest players in all the NWL last year, which tends to be a college league), scouts LOVE his power potential, and he was actually performing quite well prior to injuring his shoulder diving back into a bag. After that his performance was indeed poor. Hopefully the surgery took care of it and it won't be a lingering chronic thing like Marcus Sanders has been suffering through for a few years.

    I followed all those guys, too. But remember, those teams were bad BECAUSE that's the level of talent they had.

    Oh, and pension kicks in after 4 years.

  7. Cool, thanks for the details, my Baseball America handbook didn't note that he did well before the injury, it only noted that he didn't get a chance to demonsrate his true abilities as he was competing against college players (basically those just drafted in the June draft as this is a short-season league).

    Yes, I remember that they were bad teams because of the talent level, the galling thing was that there would be former Giants prospects and players all over the league and they did well there, but not for the home team. I used to do something similar to the Cubs curse (team with most ex-Cubs will lose the World Series) with former Giants. :^)

    Thanks on the pension, 4 years seems about right. If we are strictly talking about significant contributors, that sounds about right, you don't last that long unless you have been significantly contributing.

    About Waldis, I'll admit a little fanboy enthusiasm but when a guy can throw 98 MPH with his fastball and can knock 10 MPH off for his slider, that's damn good, raw or not, inexperienced or not. That is good enough for setup, maybe closing, and if he can develop another pitch, like his curve, then he would be a lights out starter. But yes, you are right, very little experience and it is all in rookie league so projecting that is all tea leaves reading. I just like power, whether from pitchers (my first pitcher love was John "the Count" Montefusco; first hitter love was Bobby Bonds; first prospect love was Dave "King Kong" Kingman - just realized he and McGwire were very alike, they both actually hit for average when they first came up but then became homerun crazy after a while) or hitters. Unfortunately the farm has been too barren of the homer boys for a long while, I guess that's why I rail on about Ishikawa, he looks to have legit power, he just can't hit for average, but if he can retain the ability to take walks in the majors, then he becomes similar to JT Snow except with more power but less BA, and similar defense. That's not a bad profile to have if you are batting 7th.

    Thanks again for the tip on Neal, I will have to keep my eye out for him, do you know what league he was assigned to this season? I'm guessing his surgery was better done than Sanders, since the Giants paid for it, whereas Sanders had his first one done, I think, in college or even high school, so who knows what type of quality surgery he got then. On the other hand, if I remember right, however, the Giants gave him another surgery to fix that but didn't it make it worse or something? So who knows...

    In any case, I'll keep my fingers crossed that he's not another Rikkert Finayte or Benji Simonton or even Steve Decker or Mark Leonard.



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