Projecting the Prospects in the Adam Eaton Trade

Just one day after they dealt away Chris Sale for an impressive crop of young talent, the White Sox continued their tear-down yesterday by flipping Adam Eaton for another nice haul. This time, they landed three young pitchers (roughly in order of consensus future value): Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Here’s how the minor leaguers headed to Chicago grade out by my KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar a methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

Lucas Giolito, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 5.8 WAR (47th overall)
KATOH+: 10.8 WAR (9th overall)

Giolito is one of those cases where the scouting reports outstrip the on-field performance. Scouts have long raved about Giolito’s fastball-curveball combination, and he parlayed it into dominance at the lower rungs of the minor leagues in 2014 and 2015. He was a consensus top-five prospect at this time last year, but things got a little rough for him in 2016.

Giolito got off to a very slow start in Washington’s Double-A rotation, largely because his strikeout rate was hovering below 20% — well below his 27% clip from 2015. He pitched better in May and June, leading many to blame his early struggles on some tweaks the Nationals had made to his delivery. Despite his iffy Double-A numbers, the Nationals called him up for a quartet of starts over the summer — and he got rocked. He pitched well across seven Triple-A starts in the second half, but his overall minor-league numbers were more good than great. And his numbers in the show were flat-out poor.

Despite his 2016 hiccup, Giolito still possesses great stuff and a strong minor-league track record. Is that enough to make him a tippy-top prospect? Maybe, but KATOH isn’t sold. And KATOH doesn’t even take into account his terrible 21 innings with the Nationals. The traditional KATOH pegs him for 5.8 WAR over his first six years — good for 47th overall. KATOH+, which incorporates his No. 3 ranking in Baseball America’s midseason list from this summer, places him 9th overall. Giolito is a very good prospect, but I’d argue his track record is pretty strong evidence that he’s less than elite.

lucas-giolito-likelihood-of-outcomes

Lucas Giolito’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Player Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Adam Wainwright 1.0 8.4 18.8
2 Jason Schmidt 1.1 6.4 12.9
3 Chris Carpenter 1.7 6.2 10.4
4 Jeff Juden 1.8 8.4 2.5
5 Jason Bere 2.1 9.2 6.2
6 Gavin Floyd 2.1 6.0 13.9
7 Matt Morris 2.3 6.4 20.7
8 Adam Miller 2.4 8.5 0.0
9 Scott Olsen 2.4 7.1 4.7
10 Greg Miller 2.7 12.5 0.0

*****
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP (Profile)

KATOH: 4.3 WAR (103rd overall)
KATOH+: 5.4 WAR (55th overall)

Lopez was signed out of the Dominican back in 2012, and his stuff has landed him on top-100 prospect lists for a couple of years now. But up until last season, his performance hadn’t quite matched up with his stuff for any extended period. He spent the 2015 season in the High-A Carolina League, where he posted a mediocre 4.09 ERA. His peripherals suggest he pitched better than that, but his 23% strikeout rate wasn’t great.

Lopez opened 2016 at the Double-A level, and soon began missing bats at a rate commensurate with his stuff. His 30% strikeout rate was tops among Double-A pitchers when he was promoted to Triple-A in June. He spent the remainder of the year yo-yo-ing between Triple-A and the bigs with mixed results. His strikeout numbers hovered around 20% and he allowed six homers in five Triple-A starts.

reynaldo-lopez-likelihood-of-outcomes

Reynaldo Lopez’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Player Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Brandon Knight 0.8 2.9 0.0
2 Phil Norton 1.0 2.9 0.4
3 Ramon Ramirez 1.2 3.5 4.3
4 Jose Garcia 1.6 2.7 0.0
5 Kip Yaughn 1.6 2.7 0.0
6 Ervin Santana 1.8 8.0 16.5
7 Jarrod Washburn 1.8 3.6 12.0
8 Joey Nation 2.0 3.0 0.0
9 Ricky Nolasco 2.1 2.9 14.4
10 Ed Martel 2.2 3.2 0.0

*****
Dane Dunning, RHP (Profile)

As a 2016 draftee with just 36 innings in the low minors under his belt, Dunning is a bit outside KATOH’s wheelhouse. Even though Dunning was drafted in the first round, my college model wasn’t crazy about what he did at the University of Florida. Dunning’s numbers were solid enough, but they came primarily as a reliever. He was also a bit homer-prone, which dampened his projection. Flaws and all, his strikeout numbers were still impressive.





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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Interesting that the two main pieces CHW have received (Moncada and Giolito) are less favored by KATOH than by scouting ranks. Will be fascinating to see how it plays out