Projecting the Prospects in the David Price Trade

In yet another blockbuster deal, the Toronto Blue Jays have landed David Price from the Tigers in exchange for lefty hurlers Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt and Matt Boyd. More pitching prospects on the move! Once again, I’ve applied my fancy computer math to these players to try to get some sense of these pitchers’ futures. If you’re looking for scouting reports on these players, check out Kiley’s write up of this trio. (Note: WAR figures denote WAR through age-28 season.)

Daniel Norris, 4.8 WAR

The centerpiece of the players headed to Detroit is easily Daniel Norris, who was widely considered to be one of the top-20 prospects in baseball heading into the year. Norris enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Blue Jays farm system in 2014. After 13 dominant starts at High-A, the Blue Jays bumped him up to Double-A for eight starts, and then Triple-A for four starts, before giving him a taste of the big leagues last September. Norris pitched to a 2.53 ERA and 2.57 FIP in the minors in 2014.

Norris, 22, opened the year in Toronto’s starting rotation, but after five starts of 5.00-FIP ball, the Blue Jays sent him back to Triple-A to iron out his struggles. Based on his performance since then, it appears as though he still has some ironing to do. He’s been largely mediocre in 91 Triple-A innings, posting an ERA of 4.27 and a FIP of 3.57. Most disappointing of all has been his 19% strikeout rate, which is way, way down from his 33% clip from 2014. His 10% walk rate has also been worse than average.

Based on this performance, KATOH pegs Norris for 4.8 WAR through age-28, which would have made him the 68th-ranked prospect on KATOH’s preseason list. This represents a slight downgrade from his preseason mark of 5.0 WAR. Although Norris’s raw numbers have been worse than they were last year, they’ve come against much better competition, so it’s basically a wash in KATOH’s eyes. Norris’s Mahalanobis distance comps include some interesting names.

Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.43 Robbie Ray* 95 1.7
2 0.45 Michael Montgomery* 70 0.4
3 0.59 Steve Bourgeois 40 0.0
4 0.59 Gavin Floyd 959 12.1
5 0.76 Sean Douglass 207 0.0
6 0.77 Travis Miller 263 2.3
7 0.81 Ray Ricken 0 0.0
8 0.84 Chadwick Bell* 0 0.0
9 0.84 Chris Haney 651 7.5
10 0.93 Gary Rath 8 0.0
11 0.93 Jarrod Washburn 826 10.4
12 0.97 Matt Perisho 215 0.0
13 0.97 Jeremy Powell 148 0.0
14 1.00 Sean Bergman 577 4.5
15 1.01 Jonny Venters 229 3.1
16 1.16 Steve Johnson* 54 0.6
17 1.16 Brandon Claussen 316 3.4
18 1.17 Sean Douglass 207 0.0
19 1.19 Jeurys Familia* 148 1.2
20 1.22 Ryan Bowen 326 0.4

*Pitchers who have yet to play their age-28 season.

*****

Jairo Labourt, 1.9 WAR

Hard-throwing lefty Jairo Labourt has had something of a rough time in High-A Ball this year. In 18 starts, the 21-year-old has pitched to an unsatisfactory 4.59 ERA and a somewhat satisfactory 4.17 FIP. His 19% strikeout rate hasn’t been bad, but his 12% walk rate most certainly has been. High walk totals have plagued Labourt since the Jays brought him stateside as a 18-year-old. Labourt recorded a 2.71 ERA from 2012 through 2014, but his 12% walk rate stood as a potential red flag.

Based on Labourt’s 2015 numbers, KATOH forecasts him for a weak 1.0 WAR through age 28, down from the 1.9 WAR mark yielded by his 2014 campaign. KATOH gives the him a just a 41% chance of ever making it to the majors. Labourt’s statistical comps are even more pessimistic that his KATOH forecast.

Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.26 Juan Morillo 10 0.0
2 0.33 Joey Eischen 90 0.1
3 0.47 Shawn Senior 0 0.0
4 0.63 Ryan Carter 0 0.0
5 0.65 Nick Carr* 0 0.0
6 0.68 Ben Phillips 0 0.0
7 0.72 Mike Ogliaruso 0 0.0
8 0.82 Dave Coggin 199 2.4
9 0.86 Rocky Biddle 378 0.0
10 0.90 Matt Bruback 0 0.0
11 0.92 Kris Foster 10 0.0
12 0.99 Dan Urbina 0 0.0
13 1.01 Ryan Morris* 0 0.0
14 1.02 Alexander Smit 0 0.0
15 1.03 Anthony Ferrara* 0 0.0
16 1.04 Jason Navarro 0 0.0
17 1.06 Wyatt Allen 0 0.0
18 1.06 Rafael Lluberes 0 0.0
19 1.06 Jacob Thompson* 0 0.0
20 1.09 John Gross 0 0.0

*Pitchers who have yet to play their age-28 season.

*****

Matt Boyd, 2.6 WAR

Finally, we have Matt Boyd. Boyd’s received no small amount of attention lately thanks to his near-weekly inclusion in Casron Cistulli’s Fringe Five column, and his numbers suggest that attention has been warranted. Boyd’s pitched to a sparkling 1.68 ERA and 2.92 FIP in 18 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this year, on the strength of better-than-average strikeout and walk rates. Boyd pitched well prior to this year too. Between 2013 and 2014, Boyd struck out 26% of batters faced and recorded a respectable 3.02 FIP. The one strike against Boyd is that he got rocked in his first two big-league starts, as evidenced by his 14.85 ERA.

Looking exclusively at his minor-league numbers, though, Boyd appears to be an interesting prospect. KATOH pegs him for 2.6 WAR through age 28, which would have put him 200th overall on KATOH’s preseason list. This is a slight upgrade from Boyd’s preseason projection of 2.5 WAR. My system gives him a 79% chance of pitching in the majors again before his age-29 season. Boyd’s forecast is respectable, but still falls well short of Norris’s, largely due to the two-year age gap between the two players. The comps:

Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.28 Clay Buchholz 744 9.3
2 0.33 Micah Bowie 71 0.0
3 0.50 Pat Rapp 567 4.6
4 0.57 Jason Hirsh 165 0.6
5 0.58 Jorge DePaula 27 0.1
6 0.61 Doug Mlicki 0 0.0
7 0.63 Larry Carter 33 0.0
8 0.67 Tom Gorzelanny 663 6.5
9 0.75 Ed Martel 0 0.0
10 0.78 Steve Montgomery 84 0.0
11 0.79 Greg Peavey* 0 0.0
12 0.80 Pete Smith 349 1.3
13 0.82 Tom Koehler 347 1.9
14 0.85 Brad Woodall 36 0.0
15 0.90 Junichi Tazawa 203 2.8
16 0.91 Mike Trombley 306 1.2
17 0.91 Heath Murray 146 0.0
18 0.93 Kip Yaughn 0 0.0
19 0.94 Nicholas Tropeano* 34 0.8
20 0.95 Joaquin Benoit 464 4.0

*Pitchers who have yet to play their age-28 season.





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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