Projecting Tyler O’Neill and Marco Gonzales

Thoughtless and bad editor Carson Cistulli overlooked this post when Chris Mitchell submitted it on Friday afternoon. That’s the reason it’s appearing on Tuesday.

The Mariners and Cardinals completed one-to-one swap of outfielder Tyler O’Neill and lefty Marco Gonzales on Friday. As Dave Cameron has pointed out, this represented a case of the Mariners trading away future upside for some much-needed, immediate rotation depth. A move of that type is understandable given the state of the Mariners’ rotation and their position in the Wild Card race, but KATOH thinks the gap in value between these two prospects is quite large.

Below are the projections for the three players whom the White Sox receive. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

*****

Tyler O’Neill, OF (Profile)

KATOH: 7.1 WAR (34th overall)
KATOH+: 6.0 WAR (52nd overall)

O’Neill elevated his prospect stock last season, when he slashed .293/.374/.508 at the Double-A level. But he’s had a tougher time at Triple-A this season, hitting only .244/.328/.479. Part of that, however, has to do with playing in a park that’s tough on right-handed hitters. Eric Longenhagen gave him a 50 FV over the winter and listed him as an honorable mention on his top-100 list.

O’Neil is a three-true-outcomes prospect who’s homered, walked, or struck out in over 43% of his trips to the plate this year. His power is his biggest strength, as he’s belted a remarkable 75 homers since the start of the 2015 season while also kicking in 76 doubles and triples. But all that power comes with a lot of strikeouts, as evidenced by his 27% strikeout rate this year.

I’m going to re-use (nearly word-for-word) a paragraph I wrote about Cody Bellenger when he was called up, since I think it also applies to O’Neill. O’Neill doesn’t look as good as Bellinger did, but he’s not to far off and he has a similar array of strengths and weaknesses.

By no means are O’Neill’s strikeouts a fatal flaw, as O’Neill’s many pluses — his power, speed, walks, and youth — far outweigh this one minus in KATOH’s eyes. But it’s something to monitor, especially since prospects who swing and miss often — as O’Neill does —sometimes get exposed in their first tour of big-league duty. Javier BaezJoey Gallo and Aaron Judge are a few prominent, high-profile examples.

As a corner outfielder (and one who isn’t loved by the metrics), O’Neill is nothing if he doesn’t hit. And his swing-and-miss makes him less than a slam dunk to hit. Still, his prodigious power coupled with his good speed and healthy walk rates in the upper levels is evidence of some real skill. Throw in that he just turned 22, and he looks like one of baseball’s most promising young sluggers.

Tyler O’Neill Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Bobby Higginson 3.0 13.5
2 Ricky Ledee 4.5 1.3
3 Dee Brown 4.4 0.0
4 Cody Ross 6.4 7.3
5 Chad Hermansen 8.1 0.0
6 Darren Burton 3.4 0.0
7 Ruben Rivera 4.7 4.1
8 Pat Lennon 4.7 0.0
9 Jeromy Burnitz 3.7 11.7
10 Damon Buford 3.0 2.6

*****

Marco Gonzales, LHP (Profile)

KATOH: 1.9 WAR
KATOH+: 1.6 WAR

A soft-tossing lefty with a good changeup, Gonzales broke in with the Cardinals as a 22-year-old way back in 2014. Since then, a litany of injuries has limited him to just two big-league starts over the past three seasons. In 11 Triple-A starts, he’s posted a 2.90 ERA, but his peripheral stats suggest he hasn’t been quite that good, as evidenced by his 4.16 FIP and 4.57 xFIP. In particular, his 21% strikeout rate is underwhelming, while his six homers are cause for concern.

Gonzales turned 25 in February, so he’s quite old by prospect standards. His age paired with his mediocre minor-league numbers makes KATOH pretty pessimistic about his future. And Eric Longenhagen’s 40 FV grade from his offseason write-up doesn’t help his KATOH+ projection. Gonzales has missed loads of development time, so one could reasonably argue that he has more room to improve than his age and stat line suggest. But based on the available data, it appears unlikely that he’ll be anything more than a spot starter or middle reliever.

Marco Gonzales Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Kevin Mulvey 2.4 0.0
2 Ricky Stone 1.7 0.2
3 Brad Woodall 2.4 0.2
4 Kevin McGehee 2.1 0.0
5 Rick Krivda 1.4 0.8
6 Felix Diaz 2.0 0.0
7 Hector Ambriz 1.8 0.3
8 Gary Rath 1.7 0.0
9 Glenn Dishman 2.0 0.3
10 Brandon Knight 1.4 0.0





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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Boxkutter
5 years ago

Dipoto is the owner in your fantasy league who sells out his whole future for a chance to lose in the first round, and then quits halfway through the next season when his team is in shambles with no future to look forward to. He’s laid waste to a farm system that had at least a few bright spots in Gohara, O’Neill, and Lewis and has nothing to show for these trades.

Barnard
5 years ago
Reply to  Boxkutter

The Mariners are just a game under .500 and right there in the wild card race; came within a few games last year of sneaking into the playoffs. The Mariners competitive window is right now, and the trades Dipoto makes reflect that: he’s simultaneously lowering the ceiling and raising the floor.

O’Neill wasn’t going to help us this year, and Gonzales will. Perhaps he could have held onto O’Neill but perhaps other teams also have real issues with his potential to make contact at the big league level. He hasn’t “laid waste” to the farm system because, frankly, there wasn’t much of a farm system to begin with. I think it would be more appropriate to say he’s refashioned it to try and avoid boom-or-bust type prospects. And we still have Lewis so there’s that.

deflated
5 years ago
Reply to  Barnard

The Mariners playoff odds have been holding steady at ~20% for the last week or so. They need to pass three teams to get a WC. Gonzales went straight to AAA, not the Mariners; there is a limit to the amount of help Gonzalez can provide with his projected 0.1 WAR in the remaining games if he is called up. Think this is his last option year too.

For that they game up a 3 year younger prospect with a higher ceiling and better performance to the same point in their careers. It’s a weird kind of ‘all in’ trade where the objective appears to be to acquire as many AAAA starters as possible. Getting older/lower ceiling for the tiny improvement in their chances at a WC spot that Gonzalez offers just ain’t a healthy long-term approach – at some point you need more than depth.