2nd Annual Cistulli-Sarris Prospect Face-Off Challenge Competition by Carson Cistulli February 6, 2012 For last year’s edition of the Second Opinion, we — i.e. Carson Cistulli and Eno Sarris — offered dueling prospect lists to the reader. One (Eno’s) was a full fantasy roster composed exclusively of players from Keith Law’s 2011 top-100 prospect list; the other (Carson’s), a roster of rookie-eligible players who hadn’t appeared on said list. The idea — in theory, at least — was to review each list at the end of the season, assess the fantasy value of each player on those lists, apply some kind of handicap to Eno’s list (to compensate for the advantage of picking from more highly rated players), and then announce a winner. Unfortunately, owing to a lack both of effort and ingenuity, we did precisely none of those things. For this year’s edition of the Second Opinion, we have once again constructed two rosters composed entirely of rookie-eligible players. Once again, Eno has prepared his roster exclusively from names appearing on a top-100 prospect list (although, in this case, it’s from a preliminary top-100 list prepared by our own Marc Hulet), while Carson has cobbled together his roster from the non-prospects. For this second annual edition of the Prospect Face-Off Challenge Competition, however, we have devised a scoring system that appears to compensate fairly for Eno’s advantage in picking from more highly rated players. A scoring system precisely like this one: 1. For each player, we have recorded his average draft position (ADP) from 500-plus mock drafts at Mock Draft Central (MDC). For players with an ADP of below 300, we have assigned merely a “replacement-level” ADP of 300. Assuming a standard 12-team league with 23 players each (12 x 23 = 276) — plus a couple of hypothetical waiver-wire pickups per team — we’ve decided that any player after 300 counts as “freely available talent.” 2. At the end of the season, we’ll record the fantasy ranking of each player on both rosters, per the methodology presented last year by Zach Sanders of RotoGraphs. As before, any player with a ranking worse than 300 will be assigned a “replacement-level” ranking of 300. 3. For each player, we’ll subtract his end-of-season fantasy ranking from his ADP before the season. The difference between the two figures will count as “points” for the one of us who selected the player in question. 4. For example: Mike Trout’s ADP as of press time is 208. If, at the end of the season, Trout is the 50th-ranked fantasy player in baseball, Eno will receive 158 points (i.e. 208 – 50). If Trout is the 208th-ranked fantasy player, Eno will receive zero points. If Trout is ranked 278, Eno will receive -70 points (i.e. 208 – 278). And, if Trout is ranked at 300 or below, Eno will receive -82 points (208 – replacement level of 300). 5. The winner is the one of us with the highest point total among all the players on his roster. Some notes on rules, prizes, the authors’ respective physical appearances: • As one might expect, many of the non-prospects from Carson’s list are ignored entirely by the mock drafters at MDC. In fact, only two players — Brad Peacock at 215 and Zack Cozart at 357 — have even been taken mock drafts as of press time. As a result, most of Carson’s players have been assessed “replacement-level” ADPs of 300. • The winner of the Prospect Face-Off Challenge Competition will receive a six pack of beer — of his choosing — courtesy of the loser of same Competition. And honor. Like, lots of honor. • On an entirely unrelated, but still totally gracious, note, Eno would like to make it clear that, whatever happens, Carson is still handsomer in the face part of his body and in the rest of his body, too. HITTERS C: Ryan Lavarnway, 24 Organization: Boston Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .243/19/1 MDC ADP: 414 Comments: Lavarnway was on this list last year, owing to an offensive approach that included patience and developing power. He proceeded to slash .284/.360/.510 (.298 batting average on balls in play) in 239 plate appearances at Double-A Portland — a performance that earned him a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he proceeded to slash an even more excellent .295/.390/.612 (.327 BABIP) while hitting 18 home runs in just 264 plate appearances. He looked reasonably comfortable in limited exposure at the Major League level, hitting two memorable home runs in Game No. 161 and temporarily holding off the Rays’ Wild Card push for a night. One would suppose that, coupled with reports of improved defense, Lavarnway might have been given an opportunity to win the starting job. The mid-December signing of Kelly Shoppach suggests differently. Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are likely to be the only catchers on the 25-man roster in April; however, there’s also the possibility that Lavarnway continues raking and forces Boston’s hand. 1B: Chris Parmelee, 24 Organization: Minnesota Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .243/11/1 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: There are two main criteria to consider while assembling a list like this. The first concerns a player’s talent. Would he, if and when he got playing time in the majors, perform like a Major Leaguer? The second concerns opportunity. What is the likelihood that said player could find his way to regular playing time this season? By the first criteria, Parmelee is only decent. A torrid 88-plate appearance September aside — one that saw him slash .355/.443/.592 (.390 BABIP), hit four homers, and post a 12:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio — Parmelee’s offensive upside appears limited by a lack of plus power, although there’s some plate discipline there. In terms of opportunity, however, Parmelee’s prospects are considerably better. Entering the season, he’s blocked at first by Justin Morneau and, at DH, by Ryan Doumit. The former has dealt with concussion symptoms for about two years now; the latter is not absolutely-definitely that much better offensively than Parmelee. 2B: Matt Antonelli, 27 Organization: Baltimore Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .233/6/4 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Buck Showalter announced in January that he feels a combination of Chris Davis at first base and Mark Reynolds at third gives Baltimore the best chance to win at the beginning of the season. What that statement fails to acknowledge is that Reynolds is pretty bad defensively at third (-10.5 UZR/150 there in 5454.2 career innings) and Davis has given no indication (or, not since 2008, at least) of being able to hit enough to hold down a first base job in the Major Leagues. Translation: there’s likely to be an opening on the Baltimore infield at some point in the Orioles’ near-ish future — and, if Brian Roberts‘ concussion problems continue, there might be second one, as well. Antonelli, who played both positions as a member of the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse in 2011, also slashed .297/.393/.460 (.342 BABIP) while walking almost as much as he struck out (13.1% BB, 16.4% K) in 359 plate appearances. SS: Zack Cozart, 26 Organization: Cincinnati Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .253/13/12 MDC ADP: 357 (300) Comments: Cozart was on this list last year — nor, after slashing .310/.357/.467 (.348 BABIP) in 350 plate appearances at Triple-A Louisville and earning an early July promotion to replace the offensively hapless combo package of Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria, would one think that he’d qualify for this year’s list, too. An injury to his non-throwing shoulder — one that led to Tommy John surgery — ended his season after just 37 Major League at-bats, however. The good news here is substantial. For one, Cozart should be ready for Spring Training. For two, the Reds have already stated that the shortstop job is Cozart’s to lose. And for three, Cozart made more contact in 2011 (14.6% strikeout rate at Triple-A) than he had ever before in the minors. 3B: Taylor Green, 25 Organization: Milwaukee Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .264/15/1 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: The only players under 25 and with at least 100 plate appearances to post better translated Minor League wOBAs (per ZiPS MLEs) than Green last season were Paul Goldschmidt (ca. .370 zMLE wOBA in 457 PAs at Double-A Mobile), Ryan Lavarnway (ca. .366 in 264 PAs at Triple-A Pawtucket), and Leonys Martin (ca. .356 in 135 PAs at Double-A Frisco). Green, who turned 25 at the beginning of November, hit 22 homers, walked nearly as much as he struck out (11.3% BB, 14.8% K), and slashed .336/.413/.583 (.360 BABIP) in 487 plate appearances at Triple-A Nashville, good for a zMLE wOBA of about .355. The Brewers, of course, signed Aramis Ramirez this offseason, which will limit Green’s playing time to begin the season; however, the prospect of Ramirez moving over to first base — and opening up third — isn’t an entirely distant one. OF: Robbie Grossman, 22 Organization: Pittsburgh Highest Level: High-A ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): ??? MDC ADP: N/a Comments: SCOUT is a toy stat you’ll find at the site sometimes that attempts to derive something meaningful from small samples — like, for example, the small samples produced by players in the Arizona Fall League. Basically, it’s the average of a player’s standard deviations from the AFL mean in three important stats — walk rate, strikeout rate, and home-run rate — each regressed to the point at which the samples for those respective stats become reliable. Grossman had the best SCOUT rating of all batters in this season’s AFL, demonstrating a better-than-average walk rate (0.90 standard deviations above AFL mean), strikeout rate (+0.70), and home-run rate (+0.61). That’s the good news. Here’s the less-than-good. For one, there’s no immediate opportunity in the Pirate outfield. Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata have center and right field locked down, respectively. Meanwhile, some combination of Alex Presley and Nate McLouth and maybe Garrett Jones will take left. Furthermore, there’s this: a broken hamate bone ended Grossman’s AFL. He should be ready for spring training, but the effects of hand injuries can linger. OF: Brandon Guyer, 26 Organization: Tampa Bay Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .259/10/19 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Guyer’s prospects for regular playing time were much better on January 10th than they were on January 20th. For it was in the interim that Tampa Bay signed both Luke Scott and Carlos Pena to one-year deals. The former will likely be the team’s starting DH, while the latter will reprise the role he had between 2007 and ’10 as the Rays’ first baseman. The new arrangement makes it much more likely that Matt Joyce will make the majority of his starts in right field — as opposed to DH, for example — which, in turn, means Guyer’s upside, positionally speaking, is as the right-handed bat in a right-field platoon with Joyce. When he plays, Guyer has tools to show off, as suggested by the double-digit home-run and stolen-base projections, per ZiPS. Guyer’s defensive skills should allow him to cover any outfield spot, which flexibility will help him gains some at bats here and there. OF: Charlie Blackmon, 26 Organization: Colorado Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .272/9/18 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: After being roundly praised by the present author in a series of preseason posts at FanGraphs — and in last year’s edition of this same article — Blackmon made his Triple-A debut last season, slashing .342/.396/.576 (.361 BABIP) in 272 plate appearances, gaining the attention of fans and analysts, and, following an injury to Dexter Fowler, earning a promotion to the Major Leagues in early June, at which point he was immediately installed as the starting left fielder. Unfortunately, a foot injury about a month later — one that would end up requiring surgery — ended Blackmon’s season. Fowler returned and hit well, and, over the offseason, the Rockies signed Michael Cuddyer, creating no immediate opening for Blackmon in 2012. That said, Cuddyer is a likely candidate to replace either third baseman Casey Blake or Todd Helton, should one of them miss time. UT: Clint Robinson, 27 Organization: Kansas City Highest Level: Triple-A ZiPS (AVG/HR/SB): .258/14/2 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: There’s a natural temptation to regard Robinson as Kila Ka’aihue 2.0. Same team, same position, similar power numbers, both perpetually blocked and old for their levels. In fact, there are a lot of similarities there. One difference is that, while Ka’aihue was blocked at first base by Mike Jacobs, Robinson is blocked by an actually talented combo package of Eric Hosmer (at first) and Billy Butler (at DH). There’s also the difference in walk rates: the base-on-ball was and is a major component of Ka’aihue’s excellent Minor League numbers, but it’s not a skill that always translates predictably to the majors. Robinson has swung the bat more, posting walk rates in the 8-10% range and strikeout rates between 15% and 17%. As mentioned, Robinson’s path in Kansas City is currently blocked, but, should he find himself getting time either at first or DH, he’s a candidate to produce offensively. PITCHERS SP: Chris Balcom-Miller, 23 Organization: Boston Highest Level: Double-A ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): 111.1/71/43/11/92 Comments: CBM was on this list last year — and, though he never made it to the majors, he did nothing to hurt his status as a Very Interesting Non-Prospect. He started the season at High-A Salem, where he proceeded to dominate in 34.2 innings, posting rates of 27.4% K (9.61 K/9), 8.2% BB (2.86 BB/9), and a ground-ball rate somewhere in the 65-70% range. Following a promotion to Double-A Portland, he did this: 82.1 IP, 20.0% K, 8.5% BB, ca. 53-55% GB. CBM doesn’t have “stuff” in the traditional sense: he maxes out at around 89-92 mph and his slider is reported as being slightly below average. It’s the movement on everything he throws that makes him unique. Writing about CBM in late July of 2010, Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally and FanGraphs wrote at the former of those sites that his “stuff darts and dives so much, it has left me, and others, scratching our heads as to what his repertoire actually is.” SP: Liam Hendriks, 23 Organization: Minnesota Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): 137.2/81/31/11/97 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: For those scoring at home — which, actually, that’s weird if you’re doing that — Hendriks (like Balcom-Miller above) was on this list last year. Nor has much changed to hurt Hendriks’ candidacy for this sort of list: he’s still rookie-eligible, he still isn’t really a prospect-prospect, he still doesn’t really walk guys, he still appears to induce an above-average number of ground balls, and he’s still totally Australian. After starting 2011, and pitching 90.0 innings, at Double-A New Britain, Hendriks got a promotion to Triple-A Rochester. After 49.1 innings at there, he got four starts’ worth of innings at the Major League level. The results in terms of runs (16 of them in 23.1 IP) weren’t great for Hendriks with the Twins, but everything else was. To wit: 16.0% K, 6.0% BB, 46.2% GB, 91 xFIP-. Plus, ZiPS thinks he’s the third-best starter on the team, after Scott Baker (107 ERA+) and Francisco Liriano (99 ERA+). Hendriks probably won’t begin the season in the rotation, but he could be an early call-up. SP: Tom Milone, 25 Organization: Oakland Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): ??? MDC ADP: N/a Comments: There are two things you need to know about Milone, if you don’t already. The first is this: his Minor League numbers — and, with them, his Major League equivalencies (MLEs) — have been excellent. Like, as good as any other pitcher’s you could think of. In fact, they’ve gotten better as he’s been promoted. Consider his strikeout and walk rates from his 2009 season, at High-A Potomac (151.1 IP): 17.3% K, 5.9% BB. And then 2010 at Double-A Harrisburg (158.0 IP): 23.8% K, 3.5% BB. And then last year, at Triple-A Syracuse (148.1 IP): 26.4% K, 2.7% BB. Those two rates have gotten further and further apart, which is really the best case scenario — and not easy for a pitcher moving up. The second thing is this, though: Milone throws a fastball at about 87 or 88 mph — i.e. pretty far below league average. Traded to Oakland as part of the package that saw Gio Gonzalez go the other way to Washington, Milone should get a chance to begin the season the A’s rotation. His five late-season starts (26.0 IP, 13.6% K, 3.6% BB, 30.6% GB, 119 xFIP-) might actually be a reasonable preview of what to expect — with the added benefit of Oakland’s park. SP: Nestor Molina, 23 Organization: Chicago (AL) Highest Level: Double-A ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): ??? MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Molina, who moved to Chicago this past offseason in the deal that saw reliever Sergio Santos go to Toronto, has the reputation, it seems, of having succeeded more as a result of polish than stuff. It’s true that his numbers across High- and Double-A in 2010 were excellent (130.1 IP, 148 K, 16 BB, 8 HR), but reports place his fastball in the low 90s and credit his split-change as a swing-and-miss offering — one that will also help him deal with opposite-handed batters as moves along. Furthermore, that Molina is a converted position player suggests he might have more upside than other pitchers his age. Molina was ranked by Marc Hulet, John Sickels, and Baseball America — all three of them — as the second-best prospect in the White Sox system behind Addison Reed. While that probably says more about the White Sox system than it does Molina, it also indicates that he (i.e. Molina) will earn the opportunity to start sooner than later. SP: Brad Peacock, 24 Organization: Oakland Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): ??? MDC ADP: 215 Comments: Like Tom Milone, above, Peacock was traded to Oakland this past offseason in exchange for Gio Gonzalez. Also like Milone, he’ll very likely get a chance to begin the season in the A’s rotation. Unlike Milone, however, Peacock’s stuff doesn’t hurt his prospect status. Peacock throws a four-seam fastball at about 91-93 mph, a curveball that looked at times (during his September call-up, that is) to be a real swing-and-miss pitch, and a changeup. Peacock’s rates were excellent last season in 98.2 innings at Double-A (34.3% K, 6.1% BB), less so in 48.0 innings following a promotion to Triple-A (23.5% K, 11.8% BB), and were poor in that Major League stint (8.3% K, 12.5% BB) — albeit in 12.0 innings. The real point is, he has decent stuff, decent numbers, and an excellent chance of breaking camp in the rotation. RP: Jairo Asencio, 28 Organization: Atlanta Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): 66.0/63/27/7/103 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Asencio pitched, and dominated, in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, recording a 33:9 K:BB in 25.1 innings while allowing only a single home run. That gave him a regressed strikeout rate (that is, to the DWL average, up to 150 batters faced, at which point strikeout rate tends to become reliable) of 28.3%, best in the league. Nor did Asencio’s DWL performance represent a great departure from his regular season one: during 54.2 innings in 2011 at Triple-A Gwinnett, the right-hander struck out 31.5% of opposing batters (11.52 K/9). If Asencio’s name isn’t a household one, it’s because he missed the entire 2010 season with visa problems. It’s also maybe because he’s only been Jairo Asencio for a year or so: his name was Luis Valdez before that. RP: Bradley Boxberger, 24 Organization: San Diego Highest Level: Triple-A ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): ??? MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Boxberger was a force in the most recent edition of the Arizona Fall League, leading the league with a strikeout rate in 13.1 innings — all of them in relief. Nor does Boxberger’s AFL performance represent a departure from his Minor League record: Boxberger has struck out over 31% of opposing batters during his two years in professional baseball. Part of the trade to San Diego that sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati, Boxberger spent the latter half of 2011 in Triple-A, which suggests he could make his way to the majors relatively soon. There’s a non-zero chance that he’ll find himself closing before the season is over, as new addition Huston Street will likely be a deadline trade chip for the Padres. RP: Maikel Cleto, 23 Organization: St. Louis Highest Level: MLB ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): 116.0/90/67/11/77 MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Cleto made three Major League appearances — all in relief — in 2011, for a total of 4.1 innings. The fact that he compiled a 4.15 home run rate during his brief Major League stint ought to give some sense how those specific innings went (i.e. not particularly well). Still, in light of the fact that he began the season by throwing 29.0 innings in High-A, the mere fact that he made it to the majors at all (and K’d six of the 25 batters he faced) ought to render his 2011 season a success. Cleto stands out for his fastball velocity: per PITCHf/x, his four-seamer averaged 97.9 MPH during his time in the majors. He also throws — and got swing-and-misses on during his debut — a two-seam fastball and slider. The control and/or command is, indeed, a problem: he walked 13.8% of opposing batters at Triple-A Memphis during his 71.1 innings there. A starter in the minors, if he makes the majors this season, it’ll probably be as a reliever — which is why he’s classified as one here. RP: Neil Ramirez, 23 Organization: Texas Highest Level: Triple-A ZiPS (IP/K/BB/HR/ERA+): ??? MDC ADP: N/a Comments: Ranger Minor Leaguers looking for a spot in the starting rotation will find those hard to come by in 2012. Despite the loss of C.J. Wilson to free agency and, subsequently, to the Angels, the signing of Yu Darvish and addition of Neftali Feliz to the rotation — along with the continued development, in 2011, of both Derek Holland and Matt Harrison — gives the Rangers (who also have Colby Lewis) five above-average starters, likely. Should one of those pitchers miss time, right-hander Alexi Ogando, who acquitted himself excellently as a starter in 2011, remains with the team, as well. In the midst of all this is Neil Ramirez, who pitched very well as a starter between Double- and Triple-A in 2011, recording 10.9 strikeouts every nine innings. Should he demonstrate the same ability to start 2012, he could definitely find his way into the bullpen mix.