KATOH Projects: San Francisco Giants Prospects

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Last week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the San Francisco Giants. In this companion piece, I look at that same San Francisco farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Giants have the 26th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Clayton Blackburn, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Blackburn is one of KATOH’s guys. Although his fastball registers in the low 90’s, he’s succeeded at every minor league stop, and has now succeeded at every level short of the big leagues. In 2014, he pitched to a 2.54 FIP with a 22% strikeout rate as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Last season, he spun a 3.55 FIP and 19% strikeout rate as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. As a righty with mediocre stuff, Blackburn doesn’t rank very highly on prospect lists. But he’s succeeded in the high minors in his early 20s: That’s the statistical track record of a very promising pitching prospect.

Clayton Blackburn’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Barry Zito 8.0 22.1
2 Colby Lewis 6.6 0.2
3 Ben Hendrickson 5.9 0.2
4 Homer Bailey 6.1 13.1
5 Jake Westbrook 5.0 11.4
6 Jason Schmidt 8.3 12.9
7 Jon Niese 5.6 12.2
8 Bobby Jones 6.7 10.5
9 Denny Neagle 6.1 15.0
10 Jimmy Haynes 5.4 6.9

2. Christian Arroyo, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55+ FV

Arroyo enjoyed a nice season in High-A last year. Although he opened the year as a teenager, he still managed to hit .304/.344/.459. That’s more than enough offense from an 20-year-old shortstop playing against much older competition. Arroyo could certainly stand to walk a bit more, but his power output and batting average more than compensate for that shortcoming.

Christian Arroyo’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Luis Hernandez 2.3 0.5
2 Brent Butler 4.8 0.0
3 Ricky Magdaleno 4.2 0.0
4 Juan Castro 3.6 0.1
5 Luis Ordaz 1.6 0.5
6 Tony Batista 3.9 13.3
7 Alex Prieto 3.9 0.1
8 Juan Melo 3.9 0.0
9 Alex Cintron 2.6 2.2
10 Guillermo Reyes 2.8 0.0

3. C.J. Hinojosa, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

An 11th round pick last June, Hinojosa far exceeded expectations by hitting a strong .296/.328/.481 in Short-Season A-Ball. His 7% strikeout rate is the number that really stands out, and it stands out even more when held next to his .185 ISO. A contact/power combination like that is exceptionally rare, especially on a shortstop. Of course, this is just 200 PAs in short-season ball, so I’ve probably already put too much thought into Hinojosa. But in limited playing time, he did just about everything he could to put his name on the prospect map. I’m eager to see how he fares in full-season ball.

*****

1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Player Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
4 Hak-ju Lee SS 1.6 Unranked
5 Trevor Brown C 1.4 Unranked
6 Jose Vizcaino 3B 1.1 35+
7 Adalberto Mejia LHP 1.1 45
8 Matthew Gage LHP 1.1 Unranked
9 Tyler Beede RHP 1.1 50
10 Johneshwy Fargas OF 1.0 35+
11 Chris Stratton RHP 1.0 35+
12 DJ Snelten LHP 1.0 Cistulli’s Guy
13 Ty Blach LHP 1.0 40
14 Chase Johnson RHP 1.0 45

Once a top Rays prospect, Hak-ju Lee‘s stock cratered after he stopped hitting in Triple-A. Still, .220/.303/.304 with speed as a shortstop in Triple-A suggests he could be a usable backup. Trevor Brown is glove-first catcher who hit a respectable .261/.319/.343 in Triple-A last season. Matthew Gage’s 4.27 ERA hides the 2.85 FIP he posted between Low-A and Double-A.

*****

Remaining 45+ FV Prospects
Player Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Jordan Johnson RHP 0.9 45
Hunter Cole OF 0.8 45
Samuel Coonrod RHP 0.7 55
Chris Shaw 1B 0.7 45+
Jarrett Parker OF 0.7 45

Samuel Coonrod pitched excellently in Low-A last year, but KATOH doesn’t like that he’s already 23 and has a limited track record. Jordan Johnson was similarly excellent, but KATOH’s not buying in based on a small sample from a 21-year-old in the low minors. Hunter Cole hit .301/.358/.474 between High-A and Double-A last year, but had some trouble making contact and relied mostly on BABIP. Chris Shaw hit .287/.360/.551 in his pro debut, but KATOH doesn’t like his strikeout rate over that tiny sample. Jarrett Parker had a 20-20 season in Triple-A, but posted an ugly 33% strikeout rate and is already 27. That’s the statistical profile of a Quad-A slugger.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH Projects: San Francisco Giants Prospects by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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