Monday, March 30, 2009

Villalona Follow-up By Project Prospect

Project Prospect wrote an article specifically on Angel Villalona the other day, in reaction to my and other's criticism of their assessment of the Giants young star prospect.  Here is how they ended it:
Villalona now has over 700 pro plate appearances that we can use to evaluate him, leaving little reason to put much weight into his signing bonus. Due to his age, he'll likely get a partial pass for performance over the next couple of years, but evaluators will need to put more weight into his production after that. Predicting a major breakout can be risky. A lot of things could go wrong with Villalona's development over the next five years.
However, that last part is true, and more so, about Michael Ynoa, the A's $4M+ bonus baby, who is a pitcher.   And they ranked him 46th out of their Top 200.  What did they say about him in their comments:  "He is a very polished pitcher with three above-average pitches" - Billy Beane told ESPN last July.   I could probably get a few good quotes on Villalona from the Giants, I would bet.

Giants Thoughts

I think it goes without saying that any prospect 18 years old and just out of A-ball "need a big breakout season over the next couple of years" as they started their post on him.   That's true of any prospect that low in the minors.   That's true of Michael Ynoa, who they ranked 46th, a 16 year old who they couldn't have scouted yet (much a least).  Yet somehow, without reading about him from any other scouting sources, they feel OK ranking him in the Top 50.  

They never addressed what I considered a major point:  that he is almost one year younger than even the next youngest prospect, that he was basically a high school senior age player playing against players mostly with 3-6 years on him in age and pro/college experience.   And still he did better than average plus hit for a lot of power.   

And it wasn't like he was totally lost and swinging away, his strikeout rate fell from 26% in his first month to 21% in his last two months.   That is not that bad (though admittedly not good either).  And I would be OK with a batter swinging away to get a hit if he can hit with a BABIP .333 and over his last three months.

The problem with looking at his stats and judging him solely by the numbers early in the season is that before that season, he had not really faced many pitchers who were old enough to have graduated from college.  In his previous year, when he hit well enough to get ranked high, he was facing mainly pitchers just 2-3 years old than he was, rookie-ball is mostly prospects that young, that is why it was suspect when D'Alessio did so well there, he was so much older.

So his early season troubles would be troubling if it weren't that he had not faced many pitchers with that much more experience than him prior to that.  And he clearly struggled.  But he also improved.   His strikeout rate improved significantly from the first half to the last two months, as did his BABIP.  In addition, after a slow first month, he had 4 or 5 homers in 3 of the 4 following months, ending with 17 homers.  Again, facing pitchers who mostly have 3-6 years experience on him.

Now, I am not saying that Villalona will be an above-average hitter.  What I'm saying is that what he did in 2008 is not far from what he did in 2007, particularly accounting for a slow start against much more experienced pitchers.   And the key thing for him was that he exhibited a great deal more power than his previous year despite the pitchers age advantage over him.   So I can see justifying keeping him where he was last season or even rising him a little bit, but dropping him out of the Top 100?

In 2007, his strikeout rate was 21%;  in 2008, he got it down to that low by season's end.  He had 34% XBH and 153 ISO in 2007; 34% XBH and 168 ISO his last two months.  His BABIP in 2007 was .327;  it was roughly that the final three months of 2008.  His walks isn't that much, but we aren't really looking for him to get a lot of walks, and walks and batting average were not the big things about him as a prospect early on anyway, it was his power.  And he showed his power plenty in 2008, and just as much by season's end as he did in 2007, if not more so in terms of HR power.

So if he's exhibiting basically the same level of skill by the end of the season as he did the previous season, then he should not be dropping that much in the ranking.  It wasn't like he walked that much in 2007 either.  Some drop, I can see, as a penalty for not starting the season on fire, but to drop out of the Top 100?   I still have to vehemently disagree.   But we will see in the 2009 season, not that I'm an expert or anything, just giving my opinion based on what I've seen with his numbers and what I've read from scouting books as my sources.  And I look forward to seeing Angel live in a game.


  1. I appreciate the close attention to our work Martin, but you have to be aware that:

    1. As a Giants fan, you probably carry a Giants prospect bias.

    2. I'm not sure how well you understand the metrics we use to evaluate performance.

    3. You made multiple arguments with points we "didn't make" by using points we did make then made it seem like we omitted them (most importantly: age). You actually paraphrased what I said in the article for your age argument. That's pretty low. Not only is it plagiarism, but it's irresponsible blogging. Additionally, this could be pretty misleading if you have someone who only reads your post without reading our article.

    Unless you're trying to be a satirical blog of Giants fantasy -- and that could be kind of funny -- you may want to make an effort to post accurate information in the future.

    I'm going to go see Villalona play today (second time against live pitching). I'll probably post about it on Project Prospect's twitter or in our forums.

  2. After almost 40 years of experiencing "prospects" like Randy Elliott, Joe Strain, Rich Murray, David Green, Mark Grant, Steve Hosey, Steve Decker, and so forth, I think I have some good perspective on what a good Giants prospect look like based on what I've seen with the bad.

    Please point out where you think I plagiarized you, I try to make great efforts to avoid that, as my livelihood in my real life depends on it. If I did, it was inadvertent, please note it and I will acknowledge my mistake.

    But I would note that I've been writing about Villalona since the Giants signed him and any arguments I make about him I've probably been making in other posts, it is not like you are the first commenter on Villalona that I've written about, and I wouldn't accuse you of plagiarizing if you happen to write something similar to what I've written long ago, I know there is a lot of smart people around who can think up the same smart thoughts. I am not as casual about throwing out such a label, but since you went there, I would like you to detail exactly where I did it and if you are wrong, I expect the same courtesy from you, I would expect an apology.

    You don't know me (but you can know me better by reading this:, but all I really care about is getting the right viewpoint on the Giants. I don't really care if anyone disparage any particular Giants player if you are right and can back it up. Heck, I might have said the same point somewhere in the blogosphere.

    I told my fellow Giants fans back in the 70's that, no, they aren't going to win the division that year, they aren't even going to come close, we'll be lucky to avoid the cellar, so if there is any Giants fan bias, it is pretty minimal because it don't make me feel good if the Giants are considered good, I only feel good if I have the proper view of how good the Giants are and set my expectations against that.

    So if Villalona does bust like Guzman, which I've noted somewhere in my comments regarding him either on my blog or on a board like McCovey Chronicles, sure, I would be disappointed, but arguing he's good when he's really not, does not really do it for me.

    Is he a perfect prospect? No. Hardly is there ever one. Does he have warts that, if unchecked, would turn him into another big money Latin bust? Yeah, he sometimes strikes out a lot.

    But if he is a prospect unlike almost any other prospect, you have to treat him differently. You have to give him more leeway because of his youth and experience. You have to give him more credit because he's playing guys 3-6 years older than him. That's a concept easy to accept when it's a 12 year old playing against high school players, but perhaps not so much in the pro ranks.

    And the reason I paid close attention to your work was because you said that you would be having a follow-up post regarding Villalona. I pay close attention to anything anyone says about the Giants. As I noted above, I want to have a good perspective, set the right expectations. If I disagree with what I read, I write on it, that's what a blog is for.

    You're right, I don't understand anything about the metrics you use to evaluate performance. That's not for lack of trying. I've been reading your site for a long time now, and I like a different perspective. I haven't seen any article explaining your metrics much, other than the comments you give in the notes. I suppose I would get a better view of your metrics if I read all your stuff, but again, I'm mainly interested in the Giants stuff. Give me a link, I'll be happy to read (and evaluate) your metrics in the context of what I've read and believe. But I like to surf sites I go to, I've seen nothing explaining your metrics in great detail.

    I didn't say you didn't account for age, I said you didn't account for the fact that he's a full year younger than the other young players.

    For example, you can say that this doctor is the youngest doctor around by 3-6 years, and that will give people one image. Note that he's Doogie Howser and not even in high school yet, and that gives you another image in your head.

    So saying he's the youngest or near the youngest does not frame the issue correctly. He is a full year younger than the players who normally would be the youngest, he is a high school senior by age facing players who have started college or graduated from college, by age. There is a huge difference between those two statements.

    So please show me where I plagiarized you and I will be vigorously acknowledge my mistake and apologize. But if I can show that I've written this before in another post, then I expect likewise from you.

  3. From your post responding to my article: "They never addressed what I considered a major point: that he is almost one year younger than even the next youngest prospect..."

    From the article you were responding to: "Villalona was the youngest player to accumulate over 500 plate appearances in full-season ball last year. He was about nine months younger than Jesus Montero, the next youngest player to total over 500 full-season plate appearances."

    Maybe I shouldn't have played the plagiarism card there. But I don't know if I'd call your interpretation of my words responsible blogging.

    I'm not here to stir up a storm or attempt to discredit you and your work. I merely wanted to help clarify what I saw as incorrect analysis.

    That is all.

  4. OK, well, did you bother reading the rest of the sentence?

    "They never addressed what I considered a major point: that he is almost one year younger than even the next youngest prospect, that he was basically a high school senior age player playing against players mostly with 3-6 years on him in age and pro/college experience."

    That is pretty ridiculous that you focused on the one part of the sentence that matched what you said, then skipped over the 75% of the sentence that was not covered by you and you have the nerve to first charge me with plagiarism and then call me a responsible blogger?!?

    I'll admit my wording could have been better there. However, anyone who read and understood my first post and this post should have gotten the message that Villalona is not just younger and not just the youngest in the league, but was at an age when most other players were still in high school, and yet he not only was holding his own, he was above average and much above average in HR power.

    If you weren't here to stir up a storm, then you wouldn't have use the "P" word nor to call me irresponsible when you were the one who missed my entire point of my post, TWICE.

    Here is what I wrote last time: "That's the key point about his age, not that he's 2nd youngest, which does not give enough perspective on how young he is, it's that he's doing this when he should be a senior in high school, playing against all these people who mostly are old enough to graduate from college, but even the younger players he was playing against were players who would be in their first year of college, and yet he not only held his own against them, with an OPS that was above the league average, when he should be a senior in high school, but he was among the league leaders in homeruns. Sure, he has bad discipline, but most seniors in high school would have some problems facing pitchers with 3 years of experience in college." I don't know how much more clearer I can be (though, as my readers know, I could try to do it in less words).

    If you had just used your last sentence, "I merely wanted to help clarify what I saw as incorrect analysis," then you wouldn't have stirred up a storm, if you would have bothered to read my blog intro up top, you would see that I'm totally into improving myself, if I used incorrect analysis.



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