The Players KATOH Got Wrong in 2017

Over the course of the last year, I’ve published projections for a boatload of prospects at this site. Now that the 2017 regular season is complete, I thought it might make sense to review how KATOH has performed with specific players. Last week, I looked at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts looked prescient. For this particular post, I’d like to look at some instances where KATOH’s forecasts have looked foolish.

Allow me to point out immediately that none of this is conclusive: we’re only a year (or less) into the big-league careers of the players included here. Labeling a six-year projection as definitively “right” or “wrong” following a single season is obviously premature. That said, we undoubtedly have a much clearer picture of these players’ futures than we did six months ago.

This analysis compares each player’s industry-wide consensus to his stats-only KATOH projection — which does not consider a player’s ranking on prospect lists. Stats-only is KATOH’s purest form and also the version that disagrees most fervently with the establishment. Note that I did not consider cases where all parties were wrong, such as Aaron Judge. Although KATOH’s No. 53 ranking of Judge looks silly now, it was on par with other rankings, which ranged from 44th to 145th.

Picking players for this article was obviously somewhat subjective. So if you have a player in mind that I neglected to mention, feel free to complain about it in the comments!

Prospects KATOH Liked
Here are the players on whom KATOH has typically been more bullish than other outlets. Players are listed in general order of “failure” in 2017.

Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia

Last winter, KATOH ranked Cozens as the top prospect in baseball. The large outfielder proceeded to tarnish my reputation by hitting .210/.301/.418 with a 36% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year. There was a lot to like about Cozens’ 2016: he mashed 40 homers, stole 21 bases, and graded out well in right field — all as a 22-year-old at Double-A. But evaluators were concerned about his strikeouts and predicted his power numbers would crater outside of Reading. The book is far from closed on Cozens, who KATOH still sees him as a back-end top-100 guy. But tippy-top prospects don’t have seasons like Cozens’ 2017.

Garrett Stubbs, C, Houston

Stubbs won over KATOH by mashing .304/.391/.469 as a 23-year-old catcher between High-A and Double-A last year. He ranked 10th overall on KATOH’s list, yet he was nowhere to be found on top-100 lists, with Eric Longenhagen giving him a modest 40 FV rating. The All-KATOH catcher’s performance took a step back in 2017. He hit an unremarkable .232/.328/.321 between Double-A and Triple-A. Stubbs still shows promise, especially when you consider that his BABIP cratered this year. But his low-minors dominance has not carried over to the upper levels.

Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Seattle

Vogelbach clobbered Triple-A pitching to the tune of .287/.410/.495 in 2016 and didn’t strike out a ton. Although he didn’t have a position, KATOH bought into his offensive dominance as a 23-year-old. He ranked 25th on KATOH’s preseason list and earned a spot on the All-KATOH team. Vogelbach’s numbers took a step back in 2017, and he’s hit a putrid .132/.214/.132 in 42 big-league plate appearances.

Gavin Cecchini, IF, New York (NL)

Most scouts soured on the 2012 12th-overall pick years ago, but KATOH remained enamored. Cecchini’s high-contact approach yielded a .325/.390/.448 performance in Triple-A in 2016. Mighty impressive from a 22-year-old shortstop (albeit not a good one). As a result, Cecchini ranked 27th on KATOH’s top 100. Meanwhile, non-KATOH entities omitted him due to concerns about his defense and a lack of sufficient offensive firepower for second base. Cecchini predictably moved to second base and his offensive numbers suffered a huge setback in his second crack at Triple-A. He was worth -0.4 WAR in his brief cameos with the Mets.

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Toronto

Tellez ranked 47th on KATOH’s preseason list, thanks to a powerful .297/.387/.530 showing at Double-A; however, many scouts labeled him a Quad-A masher due to his approach and swing. And, of course, the offensive bar is very high for first basemen. Tellez struggled mightily at Triple-A this year and no longer projects to hit enough to be a productive first baseman.

Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Tampa/Chicago (AL)

Gillaspie snuck onto the back of a couple of top-100 lists last winter, but none liked him more than KATOH, which placed him 51st overall. It was easy to see why: Gillaspie hit a loud .284/.388/.479 between Double-A and Triple-A at the tender age of 23. But many scouts were concerned about his unusual swing and first-base-only profile. Gillaspie wound up hitting just .223/.297/.373 in Triple-A this year and was traded to Chicago for unremarkable reliever Dan Jennings.

Samir Duenez, 1B/LF, Kansas City

Duenez has long been a KATOH guy due to his youth and contact ability. My model ranked him 66th after he hit his way from Low-A to Double-A as a 20-year-old. However, most scouts discounted him due to his lack of power as a corner-type. Duenez struggled in his first full season at Double-A, slashing just .252/.304/.402. Duenez’s strikeout rate ballooned as his competition got better, leading KATOH to fall in line with the industry consensus.

Alen Hanson, 2B, Pittsburgh/Chicago (AL)

Between 2015 and 2016, Hanson hit a respectable .265/.316/.388 and stole 71 bases at Triple-A as a young-for-his-level second baseman. Yet he did not crack any top-100 lists during those years due to his lack of power and fringey defensive tools. In roughly a half-season of big-league time this year, Hanson mustered only a 59 wRC+. He was worth -0.8 WAR.

Matt Gage, LHP, San Francisco

An All-KATOH pitcher who ranked 95th on KATOH’s preseason list, Gage turned in a mediocre 2017 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A. His strikeout rate dipped four percentage points from last year (to a weak 15%), and he added a full run to his FIP. Though he’s had success as a starter, scouts always saw him as more of a lefty specialist. Gage barely made the honorable mentions sections of Eric’s Giants list and wouldn’t have done so without KATOH’s recommendation. It appears that ranking may have been appropriate.

Michael De Leon, SS, Texas

A glove-first shortstop prospect, De Leon ranked 88th on KATOH’s list by hitting a respectable .267/.308/.385 as a 19-year-old in High-A. Yet, despite that performance, Eric gave his hit and game-power tools future grades of 40 and 30, respectively. Others shared Eric’s opinion, as he was excluded from all top-100 lists. De Leon’s performance cratered in 2017 to a putrid .223/.257/.284 at Double-A.

John Schuknecht, OF, Los Angeles (AL)

Probably the biggest “Who?” name on KATOH’s top-100 was John Schuknecht, who ranked 86th just months after the Angels drafted him in the 37th round. To KATOH’s credit, Schuknecht hit a loud .315/.387/.573 in Rookie ball last year and stole 10 bases in just over 50 games. Schuknecht played like a 37th rounder in Low-A this year, though, hitting a weak .171/.257/.298 while playing right field.

None of the players listed below were good enough to crack KATOH’s top-100 list, but KATOH liked them all to some extent despite their lack of prospect pedigree. I won’t write up each one individually, because nobody wants to read about fringe-turned-failed prospects. The takeaway here, I think, is that for every Nicky Delmonico and Wilmer Font, there are several Tony Rendas and Joan Gregorios. But since the players in this phylum can be had for essentially nothing, I’d posit they’re almost always worth the gamble.

Jose Antequera, IF, Philadelphia
Ruddy Giron, SS/3B, San Diego
Joan Gregorio, RHP, San Francisco
Oscar Hernandez, C, Arizona
Jeremy Martinez, C, St. Louis
Jeff McVaney, OF, Detroit
Andy Paz, C, Oakland
Tony Renda, UT, Cincinnati/Arizona
Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee
Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Minnesota/Atlanta

Prospects KATOH Disliked
Here are the players for whom KATOH exhibited less optimism than the industry.

Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado

Perhaps KATOH’s most controversial stance from last winter was its lukewarm assessment of Brendan Rodgers. While prospect rankers unanimously put him in their top-20, KATOH didn’t even have him in its top-100. Rodgers’ iffy plate-discipline numbers and lack of power in a hitter’s park were too much for KATOH to swallow, particularly for a player four levels away from the majors. Rodgers stepped up his game this year by hitting .336/.373/.567 between High-A and Double-A at age 20. The industry consensus was right that Rodgers is a very good prospect.

Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston

KATOH thought Devers was a good prospect last winter, ranking him No. 46 overall. But other lists ranked him between ninth and 22nd. While Devers’ profile was compelling, KATOH was dissuaded by his middling power and non-elite contact skills at the High-A level. Devers broke out in a big way this year, mashing .300/.369/.575 at Double-A before hitting a cool .400/.447/.600 in a nine-game stint at Triple-A. By that point, KATOH was fully onboard, ranking him sixth overall. Devers hasn’t set the world on fire in his first half-season, but did post an above-average batting line as a 20-year-old third baseman.

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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5 years ago

Excellent writeup. I would guess KATOH is a little more forgiving to 1B-only, low-level athlete types which is why Gillaspie and Tellez wind up on there. Of course, KATOH also got Rhys Hoskins right among others, so not sure this is a fault of KATOH.

I suspect the problem with Devers was a lack of the right adjustment for his stadium. Potentially a similar issue for Cozens. If both of them hit a lot of balls to the opposite field, the stadium adjustment for left-handed hitters might not work properly.

I am still pulling for Vogelbach, but his consistently-good-but-not-stellar level of production since coming to the M’s AAA team makes me wonder a bit.

I don’t know for sure about Stubbs, but you may have the last laugh on him after all. He had a hamstring injury this year.