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After weeks of hot stove action it is time to begin Batters Box 2008 coverage of the minor leagues.  On Friday of this week Baseball America will release, on their web site, their Blue Jay top ten list but we are starting the week with another Blue Jay top ten, this one from Deric McKamey who is about to publish the third edition of his Minor League Baseball Analyst.

Deric is part of the Baseball HQ organization and his book follows the format of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster.  There are some essays at the start of the book and then each player has their own "box".  The box for hitters shows their hitting statistics with normal baseball forecaster metrics such as walk%, contact% and eye measures.  In addition McKamey rates each players power; batting average; speed; and defence.  Finally all hitters get an overall rating and a projected role forecast.

For pitchers the book has a similar box showing forecaster measures such as control; dominance; command; and an overall metric (BPV).  McKamey rates all the pitchers pitches, including the speeds of various pitches, and again comes up with an overall rating and role forecast for the pitcher.  Each box for both hitters and pitchers ends with a comment which runs about four or five sentences.

I have asked Deric why people should buy his book instead of BA or Sickels, his answer is shown below.  My answer is that in the MLBA you get more detailed numerical and rating information but less comment.  Because there is less room for comments the MLBA comments get straight to the point.  If you look at Deric's answers below you will see that he has very detailed knowledge of the Jays prospects.

The rating system used in the MLBA is a two part rating as follows:

PLAYER POTENTIAL RATING
Scale of (1-10) representing a player's upside potential
10 - Hall of Fame-type player
9 - Elite player
8 - Solid regular
7 - Average regular
6 - Platoon player
5 - Major League reserve player
4 - Top minor league player
3 - Average minor league player
2 - Minor league reserve player
1 - Minor league roster filler

PROBABILITY RATING
Scale of (A-E) representing the player's realistic chances of achieving their potential
A - 90% probability of reaching potential
B - 70% probability of reaching potential
C - 50% probability of reaching potential
D - 30% probability of reaching potential
E - 10% probability of reaching potential

And here are the top ten Jays prospects with their rating per the MLBA:

 1. Travis Snider (OF) - 9B
2. Brett Cecil (LHP) - 8C
3. Kevin Ahrens (3B/SS) - 9E
4. John Tolisano (2B) - 8D
5. Eric Eiland (OF) - 8D
6. Yohermyn Chavez (OF) - 8D
7. JP Arencibia (C) - 8D
8. Trystan Magnuson (RHP) - 7B
9. Ricky Romero (LHP) - 7B
10. Kyle Ginley (RHP) - 8D

Deric agreed to answer some questions from Batters Box, here they are with his answers:

1.  You don't rate organizations in your book but in general what is your opinion of the current Blue Jays minor league system?

I do rate the organizations on my top 15 organizational reports for Baseball HQ.  I give teams grades on hitting, pitching, and top-end talent, and then a final, overall grade.  I gave the Blue Jays a B- for hitting, C- for pitching, C for top-end talent, and an overall grade of C.  That ranked last in the AL East behind Tampa Bay (A-), Boston (B+), New York (B+), and Baltimore (C+).  As far as how the Blue Jays stack-up against all Major League teams as far as minor league talent is concerned, they are in the lower third.

2.  Overall how would you assess how the Jays have performed in drafting and developing players in the last five years?

Not very well, especially considering the scouting/player development budget and their current talent in the upper minors.  As all of you know, the Blue Jays really focused (almost exclusively) on college talent up until 2007.  The type of players they drafted had little upside, but in the front office's mind, contained very little risk.  While I think that approach does produce Major League players, there is unlikely to be much star power.  Travis Snider, a high school outfielder who was drafted in 2006, is an exceptional talent and is the type of high-upside player that teams should be focusing on in the first round.   The 2007 Draft for Toronto was very heavy in high school talent, which was a function of having multiple picks and possibly a slight change of direction.  I really like the mix of players they selected in 2007.  Some of these players will inevitably flame-out, but there will certainly be some All-Star caliber players in this group.

3.  In 2007 the Jays drafted several high school players who played in rookie ball, how difficult is it to assess their potential?  Most experts say don't worry about their stats in their first year, when do we start to pay attention to their numbers?

It can be difficult to judge high school talent in my position.  While I do get to see a handful live or on TV (AFLAC game), most of what I can go by is their scouting video, which doesn't tell you everything.  As mentioned, statistics in the lower minors mean less than at the upper levels, but are still useful.  I certainly wouldn't downgrade or upgrade a player due to a limited number of at-bats in rookie ball, but you do look at how he adjusts and handles himself.  I like to give a player a full-season of minor league baseball before making any strong opinions on him.

4.  What makes your book unique when compared to Baseball America's or John Sickels' prospect books?

The thing that sets my work apart from other analysts is the blending of scouting and statistics, and the way the information is gathered. I try to see as many minor league, college, and high school games as I can, and saw as many in 2007 as I ever have.  Going to spring training, instructional league, and spending a week at the Arizona Fall League allows me to see a large number of players over the course of a few games.  I also talk regularly with scouts and player development personnel about prospects.  I also have a deep understanding of statistical analysis from working 14 years for Baseball HQ and digesting everything that Bill James has written.

 In comparing my book to other prospect books, my book has more statistics (traditional and sabermetric) that other prospect books, but I think the biggest difference in the wealth of information.  I'm not just looking at a stat sheet or listing the players' tools/skills.  In many cases, I'm commenting on their strengths and weaknesses, and  breaking down their tools to show readers why certain things happen or don't happen.  Quantifying the tools with the stats, and vice-versa, is what the book is about, and I don't think any other book does that to the extent that my book does.

Yes, I am just one person and don't have the manpower or resources that a Baseball America has, but I draw on a lot of experience and hard work to arrive at the finished product, and bring a different perspective to prospect analysis.  Ultimately, Iím the one on the field three hours prior to the first pitch, taking in batting/fielding practice and making face-to-face contacts, and Iím the one out there with the radar gun and stopwatch.  I'm not going to be correct 100% of the time, but I believe I give the reader enough good information that they can form their own opinions on players.

5.  Are any Jays in your top 100 prospects?

Only one Blue Jay made my top 100; Travis Snider (#14).  Brett Cecil came very close.

6.  Are you concerned about Travis Snider's strikeout rate?

Not really, because I'm confident that the power will be there and he is the type that can maintain a respectable batting average despite the strikeouts.  Snider will use the whole field and can hit pitchers from both sides equally well.  His strikeouts are more a function of being aggressive than having holes in his swing or poor plate discipline.

7.  Do you know how many Jays you comment on in your book?

32.  That's about average for all teams.

8.  Compared to Batters Box own top 10 prospects there are three differences between the two top tens, you did not include Robinzon Diaz, David Purcey and Marc Rzepczynski.  Why did these three not make the top ten?  (I see Diaz was a "5" last season, so it doesn't look like you are a fan)

Purcey was #12 (8D) and Rzepczynski was #15 (7D) on my list, so I doubt that our opinions on those players are too divergent.  I bumped Diaz up to a 6A, but yes, you could say I am lukewarm towards him.  Diaz has hit for batting average at every level with exceptional contact ability.  He lacks power and doesn't walk much.  My main concern is with his defense.  He has sufficient arm strength and has worked hard to improve his game, but his release time is slow (2.0) and doesn't receive the ball well.

9. Similarly your top ten includes Eric Eiland, JP Arencibia and Trystan Magnuson.  What do you like about these three players?

Eiland has an excellent combination of power and speed.  His bat speed is very good, so should hit for power with little problem, but he can get pull-conscious and over-aggressive, which could hurt his batting average.  He ranges well in the outfield, but his arm strength is slightly below average, which may relegate him to LF.  If his bat comes close to projection, he'll have enough offense for the position. 

Arencibia balances strength and agility, and has legitimate power.  Like Eiland, he can get too pull-conscious and doesn't judge the strike zone well, which could wreak havoc with his batting average.  I like his arm strength behind the plate, but his receiving skills are marginal and doesn't assist in halting the running game.  My ranking is based primarily on the strength of his bat and playing a position high on the defensive spectrum.

Magnuson is a reliever that I watched in college and was duly impressed.  He is a tall, lanky pitcher with a low 3/ 4 slot and whip-like motion that is tough on right-handed batters.  His 87-94 MPH two-seam fastball is overpowering and has a nasty slider, but is more of a groundball pitcher than strikeout pitcher.  I see him as a setup reliever, but am very confident he can reach his potential.

10.  Jesse Litsch was your number 7 Jays prospect last season.  Were you surprised by his major league success this season and how do you evaluate a pitcher like Litsch who is not overpowering but who has a lot of movement and deception?

I was surprised at his success only because it came sooner than I had expected and I feel Litsch is going to be a very solid pitcher for years to come.  Evaluating a pitcher like that is a little more difficult being that he lacks overpowering stuff, but visually seeing how hitters react to his stuff, along with his statistics (K/BB, K/9, HR/9, oppBA, and G/F) will tell you plenty.

12.  The Jays three AA outfielders last season, Ryan Patterson, Aaron Mathews and David Smith all had decent seasons in 2007, Patterson was in your top ten last season.  How many of these three made your book and which of them is rated the highest?

Patterson is my #11 prospect and I'm still optimistic on him.    His drop on the list was two-fold.  One, the Blue Jays had a nice haul from the 2007 Draft, as we talked about earlier, and two, he had a noticeable drop in strike zone judgment in AA in an effort to hit for more power.  I think Patterson's bat speed is as good as anyone in the organization and have no doubt that he will hit for power, but worry that he can be over-anxious and will get himself out.  Smith (7C), who has the upside of a strong platoon corner outfielder, is in the book, though Mathews failed to make the final cut.  Mathews did a nice job of hitting for average in AA, but none of his other tools rank above average and he hits right-handed, thus I believe he'll end-up as a spare outfielder/pinch-hitter at best.

12.  What is your opinion of Brian Jeroloman, I see you gave him a "5" last season?

I bumped Jeroloman up to a 6C after his fair season at Dunedin.  Jeroloman is a strong defensive catcher with excellent receiving skills and a quick release.  His arm strength is slightly below average and only nailed 28% of attempted base-stealers, so he has to do other things to compensate.  I'm not sold on his bat.  He will draw walks and has enough power to pull a mistake pitch, but he'll never hit for batting average.  A reserve catcher at best.

13.  Brett Cecil had an excellent debut and is your number two prospect.  You gave him a C rating, is that optimistic for a pitcher who has only pitched at low A ball?

Very optimistic and one of very few C-ratings for a 2007 draftee, but that also coincides that I don't think his ceiling as high as some of the players drafted around him.  There is some hesitancy in moving a pitcher from relief to the rotation, but I think Cecil can make that transition.  His slider is very filthy and has enough fastball to back it up.  His quick arm action gives him solid pitch movement and commands the plate well.   The main concerns I have about Cecil going forward are his lack of an off-speed pitch, slow delivery, and ability to handle an increased workload.

14. Any sleepers you noticed as you did your ratings?

Not many, but I would throw Kyle Ginley into that category, as I'll probably have him ranked higher than most.  He is primarily a one-pitch pitcher at the moment, but I feel his 88-94 MPH power sinker is a plus pitch and has the arm action and projectable frame necessary to develop his comps.

15. Any update on the mid-January release date for the book?

The book went to the printers just after New Year holiday, so it should be released in mid-January, ahead of all the other prospect books.

The 2008 Minor League Baseball Analyst profiles over 1000 minor league prospects and includes detailed scouting reports, sabermetrics, Major League Equivalencies, organizational lists, Top 100 list, and Potential Ratings.   The book can be purchased through Baseball HQ at http//www.baseballhq.com where  the purchaser will also receive a free update to the lists in the book.   People may also purchase the book through any of the major on-line bookstores.  The Minor League Baseball Analyst is expected to arrive
mid-January.

Thanks Deric for stepping into Da Box.

Minor League Baseball Analyst | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
China fan - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 09:00 AM EST (#178486) #
   I'm astounded that he is already labeling Robinson Diaz as someone whose top potential is a mere "platoon player" in the majors.   He calls Diaz a 6A which means he is predicting that the ABSOLUTE BEST that Diaz can achieve is a platoon player.  I am impressed by the courage and confidence of his predictions, but I just think he's flat wrong in this case.  His prediction seems shockingly far from the reality of what we've already seen.  Diaz has shown a remarkable ability to hit for average at every level of the minors, and he's still only 24.   You can't teach that kind of god-given hitting ability.  It seems to me that Diaz only needs some improvement on some of his defensive skills -- which should come through experience and good coaching -- and he's major-league ready. 
MatO - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 10:30 AM EST (#178489) #
I saw Ginley in late August and he threw 94-98 consistently for 7 innings with a slider in the upper 80's so I think his potential is higher than indicated.
Mike Green - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 10:51 AM EST (#178491) #
It is difficult to apply a rating system that logically integrates upside with chance of achieving it.  For instance, I think that Travis Snider has a greater chance of being a Hall of Fame quality ballplayer than Kevin Ahrens has of being an elite player.  In both cases, the odds are heavily against them.  What I really want to know is what the odds are that Kevin Ahrens will become a solid regular;  I would venture a guess at 25-30%.  Others might say as high as 50-60.  This assessment is at least as important as the observation that there is a small chance that Ahrens might be as good as Chipper Jones.
Pistol - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 10:51 AM EST (#178492) #
I like that there's a probability number included as well.  Of course, I'm not sure what do to with someone like Ahrens.  If he's a 10% chance to be a 9, what chance would be have to be a 7?  Do you just slide up 20% for each number you decrease?

BP's rankings and John Sickel's rankings should be out this week as well as BA.  I suspect they'll all look similar.
cascando - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 10:54 AM EST (#178493) #

It seems to me that Diaz is comparable to be Bengie Molina only with less power and worse defence, so I think 6A is relatively optimistic.  I imagine the rating would change quickly if Diaz adds another skill (plate discipline, release, handling, etc.)

Very encouraging to see those digits (94-98 mph) next to Ginley's name.  I imagine it would be hard to keep current on every one of the players, so if someone adds a new pitch or a few mph and it is not immediately obvious looking at the stats, it would be easy to miss. 

This is the first really positive review I've seen of Magnuson although the range in his FB velocity is a bit troubling.  Does he throw it at 87 to change speeds or is he inconsistent?

ramone - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 11:34 AM EST (#178496) #

Could anyone tell me if this line below means the budget is too low for scouting or we have poor results despite a high budget for scouting.  I'm assuming the Jays are on the low side.

Not very well, especially considering the scouting/player development budget and their current talent in the upper minors

ayjackson - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 11:36 AM EST (#178497) #

I've seen BA's rankings as some people have received their Magazine already.  I've seen the list posted on the internet at Sickels' site, actually.  I won't steal MLU thunder, but if you're really curious, page down the diary list at minorleagueball.com.

 

Mike Green - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 11:57 AM EST (#178499) #
Mark Rzepczynski's upside is "solid regular", in my opinion.  He has to retain his control and stay healthy in order to achieve this upside, and that is, as always, a question mark.  But, for the time being, both the stuff and the performance markers are there.

There is actually a non-negligible chance that Rzepczynski has a Chuck Finley type career.  Chuck Finley, believe it or not, would be an elite player...
ayjackson - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 11:58 AM EST (#178500) #

BTW, Gerry, excellent work.  I really appreciate stuff like this.  Are you going to track down Sickels after his list?  I see he interviewed with an A's site earlier.

With regard to the secondary stuff of one Brett Cecil.  It was reported somewhere that Cecil had incorporated a sometimes effective splitter coming out of college that, in addition to his change-up, would be an effective tool against right-handers.  Yet, since his MiLB career began, I've heard nothing of this splitter.  Can you shed any light, Gerry?

Gerry - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 12:19 PM EST (#178502) #

Scouts have two question marks over Diaz, one relates to his hitting and the other to his defence.  I describe Diaz as a hacker, he rarely walks or strikes out, but he also doesn't have much power.  Scouts describe him as a bad-ball hitter.  Scouts question whether the batting average will stay as high in the major leagues where he will see fewer bad pitches and where defensive players are better.  He could turn into Jason Kendall, but there is a doubt there.  BA's list also leaves Diaz off their top ten.

Defensively Diaz receiving skills are questionable.  I saw Diaz this season and it just seemed like there were a few more balls than you would expect that got behind him.  Hard work can often cure those deficiencies.

I think when it comes to all the first round picks they are effectively graded based on the draft.  As Deric said there is not much stock put in first year results as players are adapting to the pro game and living away from home for the first time.  I would say Ahrens has an approx. 50/50 chance of making it, I believe that is the average success rate for a first round pick.

I don't remember the splitter comment re: Cecil, I double checked back at BA and I didn't see it there either.  It might become clearer on Friday when we see BA's scouting report on Cecil.

Gerry - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 12:20 PM EST (#178503) #
Ramone, I interpreted that to mean that the Jays spent a lot of money in scouting and player development and they haven't received a good return on their investment.
Gerry - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 12:25 PM EST (#178504) #

I saw Ginley pitch in the middle of the season and you could see his good fastball.  When I saw him Ginley rarely used his other pitches.  So at the end of the season I asked Dick Scott about Ginley and his willingness to throw his off-speed pitches.  Scott said:

Itís typical of young guys, they trust their fastball, they want to throw their fastball, we want guys to command their fastball.  Even though he has good velocity he learned in a hard way that you have to throw your secondary stuff over the plate, and thatís what development is about.  The good thing is he has a plus fastball and he does have good secondary stuff, he just doesnít trust them and doesnít want to use it in games.  So we made him throw them (secondary pitches) in games and we told him that regardless of the outcome we want him to throw them and he is starting to understand that.

ayjackson - Monday, January 07 2008 @ 12:31 PM EST (#178505) #
The comment that Cecil had a splitter was from Baseball America via Pistol's first round analysis.  There was no reference to the effectiveness of the splitter, just that he had one to go along with the fastball, slider, change.
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