Projecting the First Wave of September Call-Ups

September call-ups are upon us. Now that the minor-league regular season has come to an end, players are getting called up left and right. Some of those players are organizational catchers and journeyman relievers*, but a few of the recent call-ups are prospects who appear to have promising futures in the Show.

*Editor’s note.

With the long weekend, I’ve fallen a bit behind on projecting the prospects who were called up over the past few days. In what follows, I attempt to make up for lost time by projecting several of the players who have recently gotten the call. In case you missed it, I projected Yoan Moncada last week. As usual, KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles (NL) (Profile)

KATOH: 7.2 WAR
KATOH+: 8.9 WAR

De Leon was positively dominant in 16 Triple-A starts this year. Despite pitching in the hitter-friendly PCL, the 24-year-old spun a 3.23 FIP with a 33% strikeout rate. De Leon was just as dominant between High-A and Double-A in 2015, making him one of the most promising young pitchers on the planet.

To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for De leon’s first six seasons in the major leagues.

DeLeon

To put some faces to De Leon’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the newest member of the Dodger’s rotation. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between De Leon’s performance this year and every Triple-A season since 1991 in which a pitcher recorded at least 350 batters faced. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Jose De Leon’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Denny Neagle 0.74 6.6 15.0
2 Aaron Laffey 0.91 6.7 2.1
3 Rich Harden 0.99 6.6 15.1
4 Jeff Suppan 1.12 12.3 10.5
5 Sam Militello 1.19 9.6 0.0
6 Esteban Yan 1.22 7.2 2.7
7 Dana Eveland 1.23 4.5 2.9
8 Jon Niese 1.39 6.5 12.2
9 Hayden Penn 1.41 8.0 0.0
10 Terrell Wade 1.51 7.3 0.6

*****

Yohander Mendez, RHP, Texas (Profile)

KATOH: 3.3 WAR
KATOH+: 2.5 WAR

KATOH liked Mendez last winter due to his excellent strikeout numbers in Low-A. Mendez enjoyed a huge breakout this season, tearing through three minor-league levels and posting a 2.19 ERA along the way. The 6-foot-5 lefty whiffed 26% of opposing hitters in the minors, while walking just 9%. Still just 21, Mendez appears to have a future in the big leagues, though it may be as a reliever.

Mendez

Yohander Mendez’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Chris Seelbach 0.42 3.1 0.1
2 Jesus Colome 0.45 1.6 0.8
3 Ben VanRyn 0.48 1.3 0.0
4 Jon Lester 0.49 1.8 20.6
5 Todd Noel 0.57 2.1 0.0
6 David Weathers 0.57 3.0 4.6
7 Josh Johnson 0.62 2.4 21.0
8 Ryan Madson 0.63 2.1 5.9
9 Fernando Cabrera 0.64 2.1 0.7
10 B.J. Wallace 0.64 2.3 0.0

*****
Jharel Cotton, RHP, Oakland (Profile)

KATOH: 2.7 WAR
KATOH+: 2.5 WAR

A tenured member of Carson Cistulli’s Fringe Five lists, Cotton has put up strong minor-league numbers despite lacking a prospect pedigree. Cotton tore through the Dodgers’ system last year, striking out 30% of opposing hitters across four levels. He struck out an impressive 28% of hitters this year at the Triple-A level, though his 20 homers allowed have pushed his ERA and FIP well over 4.00. Cotton misses a lot of bats, which KATOH loves, but Cotton’s also 5-foot-11, 24 years old, and possesses a homer problem.

Cotton

Jharel Cotton’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Mike Judd 0.47 2.8 0.0
2 Wade LeBlanc 0.60 3.4 2.1
3 J.P. Howell 0.85 4.2 2.9
4 Shad Williams 0.91 2.4 0.0
5 Mike Oquist 1.06 1.8 4.0
6 Mike Saipe 1.21 2.3 0.0
7 Sam LeCure 1.31 1.8 2.4
8 Garrett Olson 1.33 3.6 1.1
9 Calvin Maduro 1.36 2.1 0.8
10 Matt Hensley 1.41 3.2 0.1

*****
Raimel Tapia, CF, Colorado (Profile)

KATOH: 6.3 WAR
KATOH+: 6.8 WAR

Long lauded for his physical tools, Tapia enjoyed something of a breakout season in 2016. The 22-year-old cut his strikeout rate from 18% to 11% this year, while replicating his modest power output. The end result was a .328/.361/.458 batting line between Double-A and Triple-A. Throw in his 23 steals and above-average defense in center, and Tapia suddenly looks like a near-ready prospect. Tapia lacks power — and still doesn’t walk — but everything else is there.

Tapia

Raimel Tapia’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Michael Spidale 0.92 4.1 0.0
2 Grady Sizemore 1.39 8.3 29.4
3 Brooks Kieschnick 1.55 4.0 0.1
4 Corey Hart 1.58 6.2 8.9
5 Troy O’Leary 1.66 4.4 8.6
6 Felix Pie 1.78 9.9 1.7
7 Brian Hunter 1.82 4.6 4.6
8 Vernon Wells 1.88 6.0 19.9
9 Robin Jennings 2.06 4.2 0.0
10 Julio Borbon 2.11 5.3 1.2

*****

Gavin Cecchini, SS, New York (NL) (Profile)

KATOH: 6.2 WAR
KATOH+: 5.2 WAR

Once a 12th-overall pick, Cecchini’s prospect stock cratered following some underwhelming performances in the low minors. He redeemed himself in 2015, though, when he hit .317/.377/.442 as a 21-year-old shortstop in Double-A. He essentially replicated that performance at Triple-A this year by slashing .324/.387/.448. Cecchini doesn’t offer a ton of power or speed, but his high-contact approach should allow him to succeed in the majors. The defensive metrics suggest he won’t stick at shortstop much longer, but he should hit enough to slot in at second or third.

Cecchini

 

Gavin Cecchini’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Alex Cintron 0.72 2.6 2.1
2 Damion Easley 1.39 3.9 8.6
3 Reid Brignac 1.83 3.8 1.4
4 Aaron Ledesma 2.22 3.9 2.5
5 Gary Disarcina 2.53 4.3 5.2
6 Hanley Frias 2.54 4.1 0.2
7 Luis Lopez 2.72 2.8 0.2
8 Erick Almonte 2.81 2.8 0.0
9 Trevor Plouffe 3.22 3.5 6.9
10 Felix Martinez 3.30 4.1 1.7

*****

Jacoby Jones, CF, Detroit (Profile)

KATOH: 4.2 WAR
KATOH+: 3.1 WAR

Traded for Joakim Soria at last year’s deadline, Jones has emerged as an interesting prospect since then by holding his own in the high minors. Jones still strikes out a ton, but has demonstrated an interesting combination of power and speed while playing passable defense in center field. KATOH sees the makings of a top prospect here, but the strikeouts are a big inhibitor.

Jones

Jacoby Jones’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Reggie Taylor 0.84 2.6 0.4
2 Choo Freeman 0.85 1.5 0.2
3 Dave Krynzel 0.89 1.5 0.0
4 Denard Span 1.09 3.9 18.6
5 Dustin Martin 1.12 1.6 0.0
6 Nook Logan 1.15 1.5 2.6
7 Chris Singleton 1.15 2.4 9.0
8 Tony Gwynn 1.20 4.6 6.5
9 Cory Sullivan 1.30 1.7 0.9
10 Randy Winn 1.48 2.7 12.9

*****

Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis (Profile)

KATOH: 2.3 WAR
KATOH+: 2.1 WAR

Kelly slashed .289/.343/.395 as a 21-year-old catcher between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Kelly doesn’t hit for power, nor does he make make a ton of contact. That said, catchers who don’t embarrass themselves at the plate against older competition are worth keeping an eye on. He won’t need to improve much offensively to stick as a backup.

Kelly

Carson Kelly’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah KATOH. Actual.WAR
1 Carlos Maldonado 0.56 1.7 0.1
2 Yorvit Torrealba 0.75 1.2 3.9
3 Julio Vinas 0.86 1.1 0.0
4 Humberto Cota 1.35 1.7 0.9
5 Brook Fordyce 1.87 2.5 2.4
6 Bobby Wilson 1.92 2.9 1.2
7 Matt Walbeck 2.04 2.3 0.6
8 Javier Valentin 2.13 1.2 0.8
9 Tom Wilson 2.15 1.0 0.0
10 Gerald Laird 2.48 3.1 6.0





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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I’d love to see the comps and KATOH projections for Jonathan Holder and the absolutely ridiculous numbers he put up this year.