Archive for Projections

Projecting the Prospects in the Giancarlo Stanton Trade

The Yankees have acquired reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins in exchange for Starlin Castro plus prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. A possible $30 million in cash would also be included in the event Stanton chooses not to opt out of his mega-contract following the 2020 season.

Below are the KATOH projections for the prospects received by Miami. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system projects these prospects for a combined 5.9 WAR (5.2 by KATOH+) over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Jorge Guzman, RHP (Profile)
KATOH: 3.3 WAR
KATOH+: 3.2 WAR

Acquired from the Astros last winter in the Brian McCann trade, Guzman dominated the New York-Penn League in 2017. He struck out a league-leading 33% of opposing batters this past season and walked just 7%. The end result was a 2.30 ERA across 13 starts. At 21 years old, Guzman wasn’t particularly young for short-season ball — especially for an international signee — but his performance was off the charts. As a result, KATOH has him as a top-150 prospect. Guzman is obviously several levels away from the majors, but there is a lot to like.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Dee Gordon Trade

At long last, the hot stove appears to be heating up. In something of a surprise move, the Mariners have swung a trade with the Marlins to acquire both (a) Dee Gordon, who will apparently play center field for Seattle, and (b) $1 million in international slot money. In exchange, the Marlins receive three lower-tier prospects: righties Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert, plus infielder Chris Torres.

Below are the KATOH projections for the players received by Miami. WAR figures account for each player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings. In total, my KATOH system (both stats-only and KATOH+) projects this trio for 3.6 WAR over their first six years in the majors.

*****

Nick Neidert, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 2.2 WAR
KATOH+: 2.7 WAR

Seattle took Neidert in the second round out of high school back in 2015, and he promptly began mowing down low-minors hitters. Neidert opened 2017 as a 20-year-old in High-A, where he pitched excellently — his strikeout rate, walk rate, ERA, and xFIP were all top-five in the Cal League among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Neidert’s performance cratered following a late-season promotion to Double-A, but his body of work is impressive. He rarely walks anyone and has shown an ability to miss bats against much older competition.

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KATOH’s Guide to the 2017 Rule 5 Draft

The deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft was Tuesday, November 21st. This means that all Rule 5-eligible players who aren’t currently on a 40-man roster will be available in the draft on December 14th at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. Here’s what makes a player Rule 5-eligible, according to MLB.com:

Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.

For the coming version of the Rule 5 draft, that’s generally any player drafted out of college in 2014 or earlier, drafted out of high school in 2013 or earlier, or signed as an international free agent in August 2013 or earlier. But that’s just a rule of thumb, and since very few things in life are simple, there are exceptions and loopholes.

Most of the players listed below aren’t good prospects. If they were, their teams would have protected them — or traded them to a team interested in stashing them. The baseball industry has effectively deemed each of these players to be a fringe prospect at best. Who cares about these mostly bad baseball players? Probably a very tiny sliver of the world’s population, if I’m being honest. But if you you’re still reading, I’m willing to bet you’re part of that small minority. And besides, several Rule 5 picks from recent memory have enjoyed immediate big-league success, including Joe Biagini, Matt Bowman, and Odubel Herrera.

Below, you’ll find a list of KATOH’s favorite Rule 5-eligible prospects, grouped by position. Due to the aforementioned loopholes, along with the fact that I checked each player’s eligibility manually, it is possible I omitted a noteworthy player along the way. All players with at least 200 professional plate appearances or batters faced in 2016 or 2017 were considered. Since most of these players do not have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Pitchers

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript ballplayers become minor-league free agents. Players are granted minor-league free agency when they’re omitted from a club’s 40-man roster and have also spent at least six years in the minor leagues. In other words, they’re the ones who weren’t good enough to merit a call-up after several years in the minors, and their organizations suspect they lack the potential to be worthy of a 40-man spot.

Some of these players latch on with new organizations; some of them don’t. But regardless, the overwhelming majority never have much big-league success. Carson Cistulli found that only about 1% of minor-league free agents produce at least 0.5 WAR the following season. Minor-league free agents are the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to player transactions. But there’s an occasional gem at the bottom of that barrel. It’s not unheard of, at all, for a minor-league free agent to make a major-league impact. A few successful examples of players I highlighted in this space last year:

  • Wilmer Font dominated the PCL by striking out a jaw-dropping 32% of batters as a starter, earning him a role on the deepest pitching staff in baseball. My money’s on him opening 2018 on someone’s big-league squad.
  • Lane Adams recorded 122 plate appearances of above-average production with the Braves, much of that coming as a pinch-hitter.
  • Jacob Turner was a serviceable swingman for the 97-win Nationals in the season’s first half (33.2 innings, 4.28 ERA through June 18th).

Using my KATOH projection system, I identified the pitchers from this year’s minor-league free-agent class who showed glimmers of promise in the minors. Since none of these players have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH. Based on their minor-league numbers, there’s reason to believe they might be able to help at the big-league level sometime soon. This analysis considers only players who logged at least 200 minor-league batters faced in either 2016 or 2017.

For reference, here is my piece from yesterday on minor-league free-agent hitters.

*****

1. Scott Barlow, RHP

Barlow split time between the Dodgers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this past year, pitching to a stellar 3.29 ERA as a starter. He struck out 28% of opposing batters while walking a reasonable 10%. Barlow’s numbers were decidedly worse in his seven Triple-A appearances, but on the whole, his 2017 campaign was excellent for a 24-year-old starter.

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Projecting the Minor-League Free-Agent Hitters

Every winter, hundreds of nondescript ballplayers become minor-league free agents. Players are granted minor-league free agency when they’re omitted from a club’s 40-man roster and have also spent at least six years in the minor leagues. In other words, they’re the ones who weren’t good enough to merit a call-up after several years in the minors, and their organizations suspect they lack the potential to be worthy of a 40-man spot.

Some of these players latch on with new organizations; some of them don’t. But regardless, the overwhelming majority never have much big-league success. Carson Cistulli found that only about 1% of minor-league free agents produce at least 0.5 WAR the following season. Minor-league free agents are the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to player transactions. But there’s an occasional gem at the bottom of that barrel. It’s not unheard of, at all, for a minor-league free agent to make a major-league impact. A few successful examples of players I highlighted in this space last year:

  • Wilmer Font dominated the PCL by striking out a jaw-dropping 32% of batters as a starter, earning him a role on the deepest pitching staff in baseball. My money’s on him opening 2018 on someone’s big-league squad.
  • Lane Adams recorded 122 plate appearances of above-average production with the Braves, much of that coming as a pinch-hitter.
  • Jacob Turner was a serviceable swingman for the 97-win Nationals in the season’s first half (33.2 innings, 4.28 ERA through June 18th).

Using my KATOH projection system, I identified the hitters from this year’s minor-league free-agent class who showed glimmers of promise in the minors. Since none of these players have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH. Based on their minor-league numbers, there’s reason to believe they might be able to help at the big-league level sometime soon. This analysis considers only players who logged at least 200 minor-league plate appearances in either 2016 or 2017. Tomorrow, I’ll repeat this exercise for pitchers.

*****

1. Christian Lopes, 2B/3B

A seventh-round pick way back in 2011, Lopes has slowly but steadily worked his way through the Blue Jays organization, finally reaching Triple-A this past season. He hit a respectable .261/.349/.402 at the highest rung of the minor leagues while also showing speed on the bases. A 25-year-old infielder who can hit a little bit and run a little bit is about as compelling as minor-league free agents come.

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A New York-Penn League Pref List for 2017

Because most of the posts I publish at FanGraphs are based on my KATOH projection system, you might think my interests lie in stark contrast to the typical scout’s. My work is often presented against the backdrop of traditional prospect lists in an effort to identify players who may by underrated by the scouting consensus. However, I do attempt to see prospects in person from time to time in order to put faces and bodies to the stat lines I spend so much time analyzing.

As noted previously in these pages, my in-person looks are defined by one constraint — namely, my general reluctance to leave the five boroughs of New York. As such, I confine my interest in pro prospects to those players in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), seeing as many games over the summer as my schedule will permit.

What follows is specific sort of document, then, based on a combination of in-person looks, statistical performance, and geography. It is, in short, the pref list of someone who refused to stray far from New York City while compiling it. The mediocre scouting video is my own. KATOH numbers represent projected WAR over first six major-league seasons.

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The Players KATOH Got Wrong in 2017

Over the course of the last year, I’ve published projections for a boatload of prospects at this site. Now that the 2017 regular season is complete, I thought it might make sense to review how KATOH has performed with specific players. Last week, I looked at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts looked prescient. For this particular post, I’d like to look at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts have looked foolish.

Allow me to point out immediately that none of this is conclusive: we’re only a year (or less) into the big-league careers of the players included here. Labeling a six-year projection as definitively “right” or “wrong” following a single season is obviously premature. That said, we undoubtedly have a much clearer picture of these players’ futures than we did six months ago.

This analysis compares each player’s industry-wide consensus to his stats-only KATOH projection — which does not consider a player’s ranking on prospect lists. Stats-only is KATOH’s purest form and also the version that disagrees most fervently with the establishment. Note that I did not consider cases where all parties were wrong, such as Aaron Judge. Although KATOH’s No. 53 ranking of Judge looks silly now, it was on par with other rankings, which ranged from 44th to 145th.

Picking players for this article was obviously somewhat subjective. So if you have a player in mind that I neglected to mention, feel free to complain about it in the comments!

Prospects KATOH Liked
Here are the players on whom KATOH has typically been more bullish than other outlets. Players are listed in general order of “failure” in 2017.

Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia

Last winter, KATOH ranked Cozens as the top prospect in baseball. The large outfielder proceeded to tarnish my reputation by hitting .210/.301/.418 with a 36% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year. There was a lot to like about Cozens’ 2016: he mashed 40 homers, stole 21 bases, and graded out well in right field — all as a 22-year-old at Double-A. But evaluators were concerned about his strikeouts and predicted his power numbers would crater outside of Reading. The book is far from closed on Cozens, who KATOH still sees him as a back-end top-100 guy. But tippy-top prospects don’t have seasons like Cozens’ 2017.

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The Players KATOH Got Right in 2017

Matt Olson’s adjusted minor-league power numbers were encouraging. (Photo: Keith Allison)

Over the course of the last year, I’ve published projections for a boatload of prospects at this site. Now that the 2017 season is winding down, I thought it might make sense to review how KATOH has performed with specific players. For this particular post, I’d like to look at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts have looked prescient.

Allow me to point out immediately that none of this is conclusive: we’re only a year (or less) into the big-league careers of the players included here. Labeling a six-year projection as definitively “right” or “wrong” following a single season is obviously premature. That said, we undoubtedly have a much clearer picture of these players’ futures than we did six months ago.

This analysis compares each player’s industry-wide consensus to his stats-only KATOH projection — which does not consider a player’s ranking on prospect lists. Stats-only is KATOH’s purest form and also the version that disagrees most fervently with the establishment.

Writing this article was a lot of fun. Like everyone else, I enjoy saying “I told you so” when I’m right. But I also acknowledge that I’m often wrong. So as much as I’d like to tout these cherry-picked success stories and move on to current projections, I feel I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t write another article pointing out KATOH’s misses. Stay tuned.

Prospects KATOH Liked
Here are the players on whom KATOH has typically been more bullish than other outlets. Players are listed in general order of “success” in 2017.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B/OF, Philadelphia

As you’re probably aware, Hoskins had a pretty good summer. But before he was hitting homers at a ridiculous clip, Hoskins was an unheralded first-base prospect who had never cracked a major publication’s top-100 list. KATOH was all over him, though, due to his impressive minor-league numbers. My system ranked him No. 54 in the preseason and No. 14 when he was called up. He also cracked the All-KATOH Team in the preseason. The best minor-league hitters often succeed in the majors as well. As obvious as that sounds, the case of Rhys Hoskins shows that we sometimes overthink these things.

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Projecting Victor Robles

In something of a surprise move, the Washington Nationals have called up 20-year-old center fielder Victor Robles from Double-A. Robles spent most of the season at the High-A level, having only played at Double-A since late July. Robles lacks experience against big-league-caliber pitching, but met basically every challenge at the lower levels this year, hitting an outstanding .300/.382/.493 with 27 steals. You’d be hard-pressed to find many batting lines better and more well rounded than Robles’. He hits for average, hits for power, and is a weapon on the bases. Oh, and he’s also an elite center fielder who was worth 15 runs above average this year according to Clay Davenport’s numbers.

If you’re looking for any signs of weakness with Robles, his plate discipline is a candidate. He struck out in 17% of his plate appearances in the minors and walked in 7%, which are both league-average-ish marks. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with average strikeout and walk numbers, particularly when everything else is off the charts. But keep in mind that those figures were recorded mostly against A-ball pitching and are likely to worsen against big leaguers.

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Projecting J.P. Crawford

With September call-up season upon us, the Phillies have summoned top prospect J.P. Crawford from the minor leagues. He made his debut last night, starting at third base and notching his first career hit. Prior to his call up, Crawford hit .243/.351/.405 in Triple-A this year, including a powerful .284/.385/.517 since July 8th.

Crawford is an extremely talented player who can provide value in more ways than one. His minor-league batting lines don’t necessarily jump off the page, but in the context of his age and defensive value, they’re rather impressive. That’s why he’s been appearing near the tops of prospect lists — including KATOH’s — for years. Baseball America ranked him among the top-14 prospects each of the last three seasons, while Baseball Prospectus ranked him No. 4 each of the last two. Eric Longenhagen ranked him No. 9 in the preseason and No. 34 in his summer list.

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