Projecting the Prospects in the Cespedes Trade

Just minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Mets finally landed the offensive spark plug they were looking for. They swung a deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. Here’s what my fancy computer math has to say about these two minor league hurlers and their respective big league futures.

Michael Fulmer, 4.8 WAR

Michael Fulmer, 22, has spent nearly the entire season in Double-A, where he’s pitched to a sparkling 1.88 ERA and 2.59 FIP in 86 innings. His 24% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate have both been better than average, but his performance has been really helped by his ability to keep the ball on the ground — and by extension, in the ballpark. He’s allowed just four homers on the year, due in no small part to his 52% ground ball rate (according to MLBfarm).

Based on his 2015 numbers, KATOH projects Fulmer for 4.8 WAR through age 28, which would have made him the 68th highest ranked prospect in the preseason. This is way up from his preseason forecast of 1.7 WAR, which was based on his less impressive 2014 numbers. Here are Fulmer’s top comps calculated by way of some Mahalanobis Distance calculations:

Rank Mah Dist Name IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.28 Jason Young 29 0.0
2 0.36 Luis Andujar 123 0.0
3 0.38 Dan Wright 366 0.6
4 0.53 Justin Thompson 647 11.0
5 0.58 Kevin Correia 596 4.8
6 0.64 Ted Lilly 628 7.9
7 0.65 Marc Barcelo 0 0.0
8 0.68 Adam Miller 0 0.0
9 0.71 Lloyd Peever 0 0.0
10 0.75 Mike Hinckley 23 0.0
11 0.77 Dana Eveland 392 3.2
12 0.78 James Shields 977 15.1
13 0.79 Rick Huisman 39 0.1
14 0.83 Justin Duchscherer 268 3.6
15 0.85 John Thomson 665 9.0
16 0.88 Gabe White 334 3.3
17 0.89 Heath Murray 146 0.0
18 0.91 Tom Gorzelanny 663 6.5
19 0.92 Travis Phelps 105 0.0
20 0.97 Allen Watson 870 3.5

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

There are certainly some promising names in there, including Justin Thompson, Kevin Correa, Ted Lilly, and even James Shields. Fulmer’s odds of matching those pitchers’ production aren’t great, but such an outcome is certainly within the realm of possibility.

*****

Luis Cessa, 2.8 WAR

Luis Cessa isn’t quite as exciting as Fulmer, but is still an intriguing prospect in his own right. The 23-year-old has split time between Double-A and Triple-A this year, where he’s worked exclusively out of the rotation. He’s recorded FIPs of 2.65 and 3.84, respectively, between the two stops. Cessa doesn’t miss a ton of bats, as evidenced by his 20% strikeout rate, but has walked just under 5% of batters faced.

KATOH projects Cessa for 2.8 WAR through age 28 with a 75% chance of cracking the big leagues. This would have put him 183rd on KATOH’s preseason list. His 2014 numbers yielded a noticeably worse 1.1 WAR forecast. Chien-Ming Wang is among the 23-year-old’s Mahalanobis comps. Otherwise, it’s mainly back-end starters, relievers and minor leaguers.

Rank Mah Dist Name IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.11 Ryan Mullins 0 0.0
2 0.22 Rafael Montero* 54 0.3
3 0.23 Robert Ray 28 0.1
4 0.24 Stephen Faris 0 0.0
5 0.24 Rich Loiselle 206 1.1
6 0.25 Jose Sanchez 0 0.0
7 0.25 Logan Darnell 24 0.0
8 0.28 Rich Loiselle 206 1.1
9 0.31 Kyle Gibson* 354 3.2
10 0.32 Kevin Lomon 16 0.1
11 0.32 Cory Lidle 183 1.8
12 0.34 Robert Rohrbaugh 0 0.0
13 0.34 Mike Bovee 3 0.0
14 0.35 Jason Stanford 61 1.1
15 0.36 Kyle Lobstein* 87 0.9
16 0.39 Chien-Ming Wang 628 10.6
17 0.40 Andy Van Hekken 30 0.5
18 0.43 Brian Flynn* 25 0.0
19 0.46 Jason Olsen 0 0.0
20 0.47 Jon Ratliff 1 0.0

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

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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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Josh
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Josh

Thanks for putting these together for each trade, I really enjoy looking at these projections.

In terms of the comps for each player, I was just wondering if you could talk about how we should interpret the distance? While we see the same number of comps for both Fulmer and Cessa, Cessa’s comps have a distance ranging from .11 to .47 while Fulmer’s range is much larger than this and only has 3 players within that same distance as Cessa!