Rockin’ and rollin’ along. Busy day today, plus a long drive home because of the snow/rain/sleet, so this posting is a bit delayed.
Kennelly, Tim, C (age 20) Grade = C-
Another Aussie leads off our list today. Kennelly had a stellar 2005, posting an .835 OPS at the GCL level in his age 18 season. Everyone loves .800+ OPS catchers, especially organizations that lack true top notch catching prospects. Unfortunately, Kennelly went backwards in 2006, struggling to a brutal .577 OPS at Batavia in short season ball. Really nothing went right, as his .293 OB% was pretty lousy, but not quite as bad as his .284 slugging %. Was he playing with an injury? Was he just over-matched? In 2005, he drew 21 walks to only 16K, but he reversed the trend in 2006, walking just 11 times to 26 strikeouts. He had an impressive 11 doubles in 112 AB in 2005, only 6 in 134 AB in 2006. Needless to say, every step of his game went backwards, but he was still sent to Lakewood for the final 8 games of the season. It’s reasonable to assume he will be kept at Lakewood if Lou Marson, who was also bad in 2006, goes to Clearwater. Because 2006 was his age 19 season, we shouldn’t be totally down on him. He struggled defensively, committing 10 errors in 44 games at Batavia, but I don’t know how good his arm is, I don’t have his SB/CS ratio. If he does play full season ball at age 20 and can post a .725+ OPS, then there is definitely reason to hope. His composite numbers put him about 21% below league average, normally that would be grounds for a straight F, but he gets a boost because he is a C, and because he was only 19. I was between a D+/C- on him, but went with the C- based on his strong 2005. If he can rebound in 2007, he has the ability to improve significantly, grade-wise, by this time next year.
Ceiling: A major league catcher. Really, that’s all I can say based on the data we have. If he’s a butcher behind the plate and needs to be moved, his bat is going to have to carry him, but if his bat doesn’t rebound, he’s going to be a working civilian like you and me.
Floor: See above. His floor is organizational filler.
Conclusion: As we get lower and lower on the chain, it’s tougher to really know what we’re looking at. Kennelly is a guy I followed this year with great expectations after last season. Unfortunately, as many prospects do, he let me down a bit. He’s still real young and has plenty of room to grow. If he can replicate his offensive success and cut down on the errors, because he is a catcher, he’ll shoot up many prospect lists.
Marson, Lou, C (age 20): Grade = B-
I like Lou Marson. Lou is a pretty cool name. Lou Brock. Lou Gehrig. Lou Marson. Well, except those guys were Hall of Famers, and this Lou didn’t crack the .700 OPS mark this season at Low A. That said, he did play half the Low A season at age 19, not turning 20 until late June, and his .694 OPS, while somewhat stinky compared to the league, for a catcher, a young catcher, it’s not the end of the world. His OB% was about 3% above league average, his slugging % about 6% below league average, bringing his composite rating to about 3% below league average. Like his catching counterpart above, we have to make a few adjustments. First, the fact that he played a full season at 19/20 gets him a slight bump, and the fact that he’s a catcher gives him another slight bump. So, his C turns into a C+. Marson has moved one level at a time, going from the GCL (.722 OPS) in 2004 to Batavia (.720 OPS) in 2005 and then to Lakewood (.694 OPS) in 2006. The most promising thing about Marson offensively, to me, is the walks. He drew 49 walks in 104 G, which aided his OB%, as he hit just .243, but gained an extra 100 points on the strength of the walks and his 5 HBP. He also got to handle the strongest pitching staff in Low A, and you’d think some of their success would be a credit to his handling of the staff…..or maybe it was just luck, that part of the game is really hard to measure and draw conclusions from. Because of that, though, and because of his strong plate discipline, I bumped his grade to a B-. As I mentioned with Kennelly, the organization is really thin at C, especially with the questions now on Jaramillo’s defense, so I’m begging that one of these guys steps up this season. It’s reasonable to assume Marson will go to Clearwater, where he’ll be only 20/21 for the season, playing against guys 2-3 years older than him. If he holds his own again and can raise his OPS into the .760 range, he’ll be a legit top 15 prospect next year.
Ceiling: Marson is still 3-4 years away from Philly, but age is on his side, and so is his patient approach at the plate. If he continues to draw walks at the rate he did in 2006, he’ll be more than an all catch no hit catcher. It’s wish-casting to assume he’ll be anything more than a #7 hitting catcher, but if his game calling and defense are legit, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t turn into a major league catcher, probably a starter, at some point down the line.
Floor: Organizational filler/AAAA player. He can’t be worse than Sal Fasano, so you’d have to think a career backup, as long as he can remain behind the plate, is a reasonable future.
Conclusion: All things considered, Marson is a step or two ahead of Kennelly on the spectrum, but Kennelly is a bit more of an unknown still, while we’ve seen flashes of what Marson can do. If the plate discipline remains and the defensive aspect is there, he’s going to be fine. I don’t know if he’ll add any power, he had just 25 XBH in 2006, but he did have 5 triples, so he might be able to run a little bit. A very young Jason Kendall in the making? I could think of worse guys to hope he becomes. No use placing odds on guys this far away.
Harker, Brett, RHP (age 22) Grade = B
As I detailed here, I’m a Brett Harker fan. In his first full season, he held his own in the Lakewood pen, posting a 2.92 ERA in 64.2 IP. His important stats were all above average as he allowed 7.38 H.9 (+15%), 2.64 BB/9 (+30%), and 0.54 HR/9 (+15%) while striking out 7.65/9 (+1%) for a composite average of 62% above league average. Of course, we have to make some adjustments. As he is a reliever exclusively, he gets docked points from an A to an A-. He’s on the high end of the prospect age spectrum for Low A, but I wouldn’t have docked him just for that, however, he did post a 5.06 ERA in 2005 at Batavia, and when looking at the big picture, that along with him being 22 convinced me to drop him down a half grade. He then loses his final half grade based on his K rate. I hate to keep harping on it, but strikeout rate is a really important indicator, and to me, it’s the most important for a reliever, followed closely by BB/9. As you can see, he was above average in his hit rate and walk rate, but was merely league average in the swings and misses category. His fastball is fringy, but he does have a great curve/slider offspeed pitch. The question is, will it translate to higher levels? He’s likley headed to Clearwater, where he should get some save chances.
Ceiling: A major league setup man. He saved 17 games in 2006 and has college level experience in closing games, however, if he doesn’t add to his fastball (he probably won’t), he might not have enough to close games out in the majors unless he develops a plus changeup or a split of some sort. His offspeed pitch appears to be a plus offering, from the reports I’ve read, but he won’t be able to live off of it, especially at higher levels.
Floor: Worst case scenario, he’s a poor man’s Geoff Geary.
Conclusion: I like Harker, and I think he’ll be a useful piece in the ML bullpen in a few years, but the leverage of the situations he is handed could depend on his fastball and his control. He seems to have the mentality to pitch late in games, but that won’t be enough if the stuff doesn’t translate. We’ll see as he faces tougher competition in 2007 and beyond.