A Simple Kind of Fan. The Down on the Farm Edition 2.1.11
Following minor league prospects used to be a difficult task. The Milwaukee Journal or the Milwaukee Sentinel didn’t print minor league box scores and there certainly wasn’t a plethora of resources available for an eager fan. The dawn of the modern age has given even a Simple Kind of Fan the ability to closely follow the top prospects in the farm system on a daily basis. During the season, places like Brew Crew Ball and Bernie’s Crew typically have a summary each morning of the top performers and top prospects throughout the system. Given that Appleton is a short drive up Hwy 41, it is now easy for even the laziest of fans to keep track of the top prospects in the Brewer system.
I attended a luncheon for the state chapter of SABR on the afternoon of January 29, 2011. While there, Doug Melvin told me (along with about 49 other people) that he feels the system still has “15-20 players that will play in the majors.” Despite the doom and gloom prognosticators out there, Melvin has optimism that there is still talent in the minor league system. That talent is not advanced nor is it ready to step in today, but it is there.
When ranking prospects, I do not care for the manner in which the most recent draft picks almost always seem to be rated higher than the older draft classes. I understand that these players have higher ceilings and they haven’t yet endured the treacherous grind of a full minor league season, but let’s be honest, everybody loves potential. 2009 top pick Eric Arnett is a great example of being a highly touted top prospect until he actually played. Unless you are John Sickels, it is always a crap shoot projecting prospects. In terms of helping the major league club, prospects are nothing more than unproven commodities until they put on a major league uniform. I tend to look at grouping prospects into “When they can actually help the Brewers.” The following players should not be considered a strict top 10 list but rather players at critical positions that are weak, or will be weak in the coming years.
Helping in 2011
Mark Rogers. Rogers has big league stuff and he is ready to contribute if he can harness his control. Control is a concern because he has walked almost 6 batters per 9 innings in his minor league career. If Rodgers doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, he surely would be considered for a call up should there be an injury to the starting staff. This is particularly the case if Manny Parra struggles out of the gate. Barring an injury, I look for Rogers to be pushing for innings down the stretch this season.
Wily Peralta. Peralta didn’t blow anyone away between Brevard County (A+) and Huntsville (AA) last year and his drop in K/9IP is alarming. If Peralta is going to succeed at the advanced levels, he will need to bring the walks down and learn to pitch to contact. A solid start could put Peralta in Nashville (AAA) by season’s end, earlier if injuries strike.
Caleb Grindl Sadly, I do not believe the Gindl will be a successful part of the Milwaukee Brewers. His triple slash line has decreased in every category each of his 4 minor league seasons and if I were to make a top 10 list, Gindl would not be on it. His size (5’9” 185lbs) hurts him, but he has the versatility to have played all three OF positions in his minor league career.
Amaury Rivas . Rivas pitched all year in AA and had some success and some struggles. I look for Rivas to be in Nashville early and projecting like the type of pitcher that could have a ceiling as high as a #3 starter in the majors. Amaury needs to continue to improve his breaking ball if he hopes to have success as a starter in the advanced levels.
Logan Schafer. Currently, I do not think Schafer is a top 10 prospect. However, given the lack of major league talent in CF, I thought I would talk about a player that could help in 2012 if everything went right. Schafer was injured for almost all of last year, but if he were to come out of Spring Training hot, I could see the Brewers being aggressive with his promotions. A case could be made for Eric Komatsu here as well, but I don’t see him sticking in CF defensively in the end and that limits his value.
Eric Farris. Once again with Farris, I don’t feel like he is a top prospect. However, if Rickie Weeks is unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension, there is a void of advanced prospects in the wake of Brett Lawrie’s departure. Farris was injured much of last year, but he can flat out fly (70 SB in 2009). He allegedly brings an advanced glove as well. A solid injury free year would make everyone feel less awful about the prospect of losing Rickie.
Kyle Heckathorn. The big righthander (6’6 225 lbs) has solid potential, but is still a few years away. He induces ground balls, but his lack of strikeouts means his control will be critical as his advances in levels through the system.
Kentrail Davis. Davis had a .304/.407/.459 line in his first minor league season. He is a few years away, but he is already 23, so a solid season from Kentrail could see a rapid promotion through the ranks. One alarming concern is the 3 HR in 368 AB last year.
Cody Scarpetta. Scarpetta has much to like in the skills department. He struck out 10 batters per 9 innings in 27 starts for Huntsville last year. It is conceivable that Cody could have a solid year and be banging on the major league door by this time next year, but I look for his impact to be felt if there is a void in the starting rotation in 2013.
Scooter Gennett. Tiny (5’9 165 lbs) but scrappy Gennett raised many eyebrows in 2010 with a solid debut season. If he can repeat his 2010 line of .309/.354/.463 and improve his defense, he could be viewed as a potential long term replacement for Weeks.
The “What the f*&# does that stat mean” stat of the week.
One of the goals of this blog, and in particular this segment, is to unveil the statistical analysis of the game. This complicated maze of numbers can be confusing and is often shrouded in mystery for the average fan. As you have seen from past weeks, these statistics aren’t tremendously complicated. When looking at a player, or a team, it is important to have as much information as possible to make an accurate analysis. As Spring Training moves forward, I will use these statistics we are discussing to give you a better idea of what we have as a team, what we ideally need, and where we are going in the 2011 season.
BABIP is an awesome statistic that can take past results and try to predict future trends. BABIP is known as Batting Average on Balls In Play. BABIP looks at a player’s batting average on ONLY balls hit into play (home runs and strikeouts do not count as in play). When considering that the MLB average for BABIP is roughly .300, a player’s batting average can be analyzed and determined, in some cases, how much luck had a factor in the results. Certainly many factors go into BABIP, such as the speed of the player, the defensive alignment, the home park configuration, and a myriad of other factors. A player that hits a higher than average line drive percentage will have a higher than average BABIP. For now, the important part to understand is that BABIP has a way of clarifying the authenticity of a player’s batting average from year to year. It is important to remember that this statistic can be used for both hitters and pitchers.
I believe Lorenzo Cain will give us a proper idea of what kind of perspective BABIP can be used. Lorenzo was torrid in September for Milwaukee. Going into the off season, the expectations were elevated and big things were expected of Cain. Of course, he was traded to the Royals and we are now back to square one with Gomez. Regardless, Cain’s batting average for 2010 was .306, thanks mainly to his robust .370 BABIP. If Cain even had a .320 BABIP, his batting average would change dramatically and suddenly a less than .280 average doesn’t look so sexy.
To be fair, Cain has always carried a high BABIP in the minor leagues, but in September the competition is watered down and teams have not had a full season to watch film and figure out ways to get Cain out. I have already documented the similarities of Cain in 2010 and Alcides Escobar in 2009. In 2009, Escobar also had a .304 average and a .346 BABIP. After a full off season for pitchers to adjust, Escobar hit .235 and had a BABIP of .264 in 2010. Given a full season, it is reasonable to suggest that Cain’s BABIP will be lower next year and hence, his batting average will be lower. In my opinion, Lorenzo Cain is a PRIME candidate for a disappointing year in 2011.
Looking at a player’s career BABIP will also give some insight as to how sustainable a batting average will remain. BABIP will always be more accurate given the more AB’s it has to eliminate as many anomalies and outliers that may occur over a small sample size. The main point I am trying to get across is that there is more to a batting average than just hits divided by at bats.
BABIP in the Fantasy Baseball World
I will be discussing fantasy baseball from time to time here and I think we will also run some sort of league. It brings great sadness to share the following secret with you, my loyal reader. I have used BABIP for years in Fantasy Baseball to target players due for a bounce back season. Going into any baseball season I analyze the BABIP for all possible players to be drafted. I will look for players that got unlucky with a low BABIP and will often target those players for a bounce back season. Conversely, I will almost always stay away from players that have inflated values due to a lucky BABIP. This stat works really well for pitchers and gives the average fan an idea of just how hard a pitcher was hit throughout the year. There is real value to be found using this method in the middle to late rounds where we all know leagues are won. There are also many other places to look for fantasy baseball knowledge, but I can’t yet reveal every secret that is going to lead to my team crushing yours.
Throwback of the week.
I would like to comment on a great Milwaukee Brewer, Paul Molitor. I have always resented ‘The Ignitor’ a little because he left and didn’t stick it out like Robin did. Here is a great article highlighting his side of the story (h/t Brew Crew Ball). After reading the article, I feel perhaps I was too hard on Molitor. Maybe you were too? This jersey is affordable and should be a part of your collection.
For an old school jersey I am going to pick a former Brewer. The Cobra, Dave Parker, had only one year in Milwaukee, but I remember thinking as a kid what a great signing it was and how awesome it was that such a huge name signed in Milwaukee. He was an All Star in Milwaukee and also finished 16th in the MVP race. Yes, I know you could care less about that stat. Here is a sweet jersey that highlights the bright yellow jerseys the Pirates wore back in the late 1970’s.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
Thursday, February 17. Pitchers and Catchers report.
Monday, February 28. Split squad action kicks off the 2011 Spring Training Schedule.