Let’s roll right along with the grades.
Jaramillo, Jason, C (age 24): Grade = C+
While Germano was tough to grade, Jaramillo was even tougher. He’s really a tale of two prospects, or at least we thought so prior to Chris Kline’s comments a few weeks ago. Jaramillo was always applauded for his defensive work, but that aspect of his game was called into question in the Arizona Fall League this season. Offensively, he’s league average, almost across the board. League average in the minors isn’t necessarily a good thing, and the fact that he was 23, a college player, at AA and struggling is not a good thing. That said, he had a strong (relatively speaking) season in 2005 at Lakewood, where he had an .806 OPS. The problem is, if he isn’t a strong defensive catcher, he’ll never be more than a backup. I’m willing to give it a season before making the final judgement on his defensive abilities.
Ceiling: If his AFL defense was just a hiccup and his defense is still strong, his ceiling is probably Yadier Molina. Molina is basically a .675 OPS guy with a rocket arm and great game calling skills. Right now, it doesn’t look like Jaramillo will hit much more than that at the big league level, but if his defense is what we thought prior to the last few months, he can be an everyday catcher at the big league level, especially in an organization that is devoid of blue chip catching prospects, and especially since the organization is apparently anti-Carlos Ruiz.
Floor: His floor is, unfortunately, as a AAA career catcher. You’d think he’s the type of guy who’ll get a shot either way, simply because of how poor the catching position really is across baseball, but if his defense is simply average, no team will carry him as a starter, and most teams probably won’t look at him as even a reliable backup.
Conclusion: My conclusion is, 2007 will tell us a lot about Jaramillo going forward. Up until the report on his defense in the AFL, I was fairly sure he’d be able to reach his ceiling, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a .280/.350/.450 guy at the big league level, but not many catchers are. But, the key is his defense. If he’s strong defensively, he can hit .250/.320/.400 and be tucked away in the 8th spot, as long as he’s throwing out 35% of base runners and handling the young pitchers well. Right now, I’d say he’s got a 65% chance of reaching his ceiling. I think there’s a better chance his defense is for real than not, but I want to see for sure in 2007. I think he’s got an 85% chance of his hitting his floor at worst, meaning a 15% chance his just out of baseball in 4 years. Again, it all hinges on defense. If his defense collapses, so too will his baseball career, but if the strong arm remains, he’ll probably hang around AAA/MLB for a while. Hey, if Todd Pratt can, why can’t Jason?
Bourn, Michael, OF (age 24) Grade = B-
I tossed around the idea of giving Bourn a C+, then when looking at his numbers again, actually tossed around the idea of giving him a straight B. So the only logical thing to do was go right in the middle and just live with it. His age 23 season was a tale of two seasons, as he put up a fairly pedestrian .715 OPS at Reading but then responded with a .796 OPS at Scranton. We know a few things about Bourn: He is never going to hit for power of any kind, he’s fast, and he has above average plate discipline, the degree of the latter is the biggest question mark going forward. In the low minors, his plate discipline was fantastic, but as he’s climbed the ladder, it’s become merely a tick or two above average. By all accounts, he’s a fine center fielder and his speed would be even better utilized at a corner spot, but he’ll never hit enough there to warrant his defense. The one constant in his game has been his ability to steal bases at a high percentage, and if used properly, he’ll always have a use at the major league level. The problem is, and I’m sure this is something the Phillies consider a lot, he’s been inconsistent offensively, and I’m not sure anyone really knows what to expect out of him next. His AA production probably didn’t merit the jump to AAA, but when he was promoted, he actually elevated his game. At the plate, he’s probably a C+ prospect, on the weight of his ability to get on base. On the bases, he’s an A- prospect, but that doesn’t carry nearly the weight of his bat. In the field, he’s a B+ fielder, but again, his usefulness, as an everyday player at least, will only come in CF. Add it all up, and he receives a B- from me.
Ceiling: The most common comparison I see to Bourn made by others is Juan Pierre, but I disagree there. All of Pierre’s success is tied to his batting average, and he never has been one to draw lots of walks or strike out much, while Bourn does plenty of both. I think a better parallel is Luis Castillo, with a lot more strikeouts and in CF, not 2B. If he turns into a Castillo-esque player in CF, he can be an everyday leadoff hitter as long as his defense allows him to stay in CF, hitting around .275/.375/.375, stealing 45-50 bases a year with a 75-80% success rate.
Floor: One of the reasons I gave him a B- and not a C+ is that I think he’s going to be major leaguer for the next 10 years. That said, if his OB% doesn’t stay in the .360-.380 range at the highest level, he’ll be nothing more than a 5th OF who is used to pinch run and play late inning defense. Every team needs a guy like that, especially with a turtle like Pat Burrell in the OF.
Conclusion: Bourn was the easiest of the three guys I graded so far. We know his strengths, we know his weaknesses, it’s just a matter of seeing what he does in 2007 to figure out if he’s going to be closer to his ceiling or his floor. With Rowand and Victorino, both on the right side of 30, there’s no need to rush Bourn into a starting role. He was skipped over Clearwater, but now has 1000+ AB at AA and above, so he’s gotten his time in. If he makes the club as the 5th OF, he could be the first choice to fill in at CF if something were to happen to Rowand, and who knows, he might not give the spot back, or he may flop and return to his 5th OF spot. Or, the Phillies could choose to send him to Ottawa to start the season and wait to make a decision on him till closer to next season, depending on what happens near the trade deadline. Right now, I’d say he’s about 60% chance to reach his ceiling, and has an 80% chance to reach his floor, with a 20% chance he’s never more than a AAAA player. His speed and defense mean, barring some disaster, that he’ll always have a use at the major league level for some team. If a guy like Joey Gathright, who can’t hit at all, is kept at the big league level and given somewhat regular AB’s because of his speed, Bourn will get there too.
Happ, James, LHP (age 24) Grade = B+
Happ was close, really close, to getting an A-, but what held him back is his walk rate. Right now, it’s not a problem, but it wasn’t a strength at AA, so I’m going to hold off on giving him an A- for now. He has developed the reputation as the typical soft tossing lefty, but he’s added 3-4 mph to an already good fastball, and now sits in the 91-93 range, which is quite solid for a LHP. His changeup is an above average pitch, his breaking ball probably average, but has potential and should improve. He was great at high A Clearwater, and even better at AA Reading, striking out 158 in 154 innings. He did all of his work at age 23 this season, so while his A+ numbers take a bit of a knock as he was on the high end of prospect age for the FSL, his performance at AA was right in line, age-wise. His hit rate was about 15% above average at Reading, his K rate over 25% above average, but his walk rate was about 5% below average at AA after being well above average at A+. That drop off probably isn’t uncommon, but I’m going to wait and see what he responds with at AAA Ottawa. Looking at his three true outcomes, he passes with flying colors in regards to his K rate, he’s just fine in his HR rate, and his walk rate is still a tick or two above average overall. His control was merely average in 2004 and 2005, so we’ll see where he ends up there in 2007 before giving him an A- or straight A. At this point, with the injury to Mathieson, he’s the closest to a “sure thing” in terms of making the big leagues and contributing, at some level.
Ceiling: I’m not going to make Tom Glavine comparisons, those serve no purpose. If his walk rate ends up in the 2.65-2.80 range at the MLB level, and he can maintain a K rate in the neighborhood of 7.50-8.00 at the highest level, his ceiling is as a #2 pitcher. That may seem like a big thing to say, considering he hasn’t torn up most prospect charts, but at some point, you have to look at a guy’s numbers and stop worrying about how “dynamic” his stuff is. Happ has a good pitcher’s body, he has a deceptive delivery, and he now has above average velocity, along with good secondary pitches and the makings of a real good changeup. While his chances of becoming a #2 aren’t as good as, say, Cole Hamels or a guy with electric stuff, he’s put up the results so far at every level, and that has to be taken into account.
Floor: I’m setting his floor as a #5 starter. I really don’t see a need for him to move to the bullpen at any point. He was a good pitcher in college, and he’s been a really good starter during his entire pro career. The only way he’ll be forced to the pen, in my opinion, is if he can’t stay healthy. In 2005, that was sort of the case, but he was just fine in 2006. If his secondary pitches only become average, his strong groundball tendencies and his fastball should allow him to be a back of the rotation guy, capable of pitching 180 innings of 4.35-4.60 ball. On most every team, that’s good enough for the #5 spot.
Conclusion: In 2006, Happ became one of my favorite prospects. He’s a tireless worker, he understands HOW to pitch, and his stuff is now catching up to his aptitude. If his new-found velocity stays and he can consistently work at 91 while ramping it up to 93, he’s Cole Hamels with a changeup a notch lower. That’s huge praise, and of course he may flame out or just become a below average major leaguer, but I think the tools are there. He handled AA with ease at age 23, and will probably start at Ottawa, his age 24 season. If he mows down AAA, which based on the level of talent between AA and AAA, he probably should, he’ll more than likely get a shot to start 2008 in the big league rotation. I put his odds of reaching his ceiling at 40%, because frankly, there aren’t a lot of guys you can pencil in as “bona-fide #2 starters” on a Championship caliber team, but Happ could very well surprise a ton of people. I’m giving him a 95% chance at hitting his floor, with only a 5% chance of him not making it in the bigs at some level. This kid is for real, and I think we’ll see that in the next year.
Segovia, Zach, RHP (age 23/24 in April) Grade = B
I struggled with this one too, as part of me thinks Zach should also be a B+ prospect, but kind of like Germano yesterday, I’m worried about the strikeout rate. I hate to harp on it, but the ability to get swings and misses is a huge indicator going forward. Segovia, who had Tommy John surgery in 2004, appears all the way back. His command is generally outstanding, as seen in his 2.02 BB/9 rate at AA Reading in 2006. Most pitchers struggle with control the season after TJ surgery, but Segovia “struggled” to a 2.99 BB/9 rate in 2005 while recovering, which really speaks to his outstanding ability to locate his pitches. He’s another guy with strong groundball tendencies, and he allowed only 10 HR in 156 innings this season. The problem is, again, trying to figure out how many guys he’ll strike out as he rises the pyramid and eventually reaches the majors. His hit rate has been fine, about 15% above league average across the two levels in 2006, so he’s getting his outs, but you have to think that number will drop at the major league level. He’s been better than 50% above league average in terms of walks allowed, and not to beat a dead horse, but that’s fantastic. He had a 7.48 K/9 rate at Clearwater, and it dipped to 6.31 K/9 at AA. Now here’s the thing. 6.31 is about average at the MLB level for qualified starting pitchers, ie, guys that throw 160+ innings a year. If he averages 6.3 K/9 at the MLB level, I have no doubts he can be a solid SP. The problem is, 6.3 K/9 at AA doesn’t translate to 6.3 K/9 at the MLB level. If he dips down to the 5.0 range, he’s going to be tough to project and tough to count on. As he doesn’t turn 24 till April, he’s right in line with where he should be, which will more than likely be AAA. He may be the first call up (other than Happ) in the event of an injury in Philly.
Ceiling: As with all groundball pitchers, it’s really tough to say. The easy comp for groundball guys is Chien-Ming Wang, but Wang has a 93-95 mph fastball, I’m not sure Segovia is quite there. Wang’s peripherals in the minors compare very similar to Segovia: 2.04 BB/9, 7.06 K/9, 0.46 HR/9. The difference, though, is that Wang doesn’t just have GB tendencies, he’s a maniac, getting over 3 groundballs to every fly ball. Segovia only generated 1.7 GB to every FB. So, I think we have to aim a little lower. I’d say a safer bet, when considering his ceiling, is as a solid #4 starter, capable of 200 innings, and anywhere from a 3.90 to 4.50 ERA, depending on how good his defense is behind him.
Floor: A 7th inning reliever in the Geoff Geary mold. If he can’t strike guys out and doesn’t develop the violent sinker of C-M Wang, he certainly appears capable of developing into a reliable 7th inning guy. He’s better against RHB, but lefties didn’t kill him, so it’s not as if he’s ticketed for the ROOGY role. His hard sinker could serve him well against both, and if his changeup jumps up a grade on the scale and becomes a solid above average pitch, he may even look at setup man duties as a possibility. Low K guys in the late innings are scary, but Segovia seems like a quality competitor.
Conclusion: The future for Zach is good, regardless of the role he’s going to play. Like I said above, it’s going to come down to his ability to either A) improve his strikeout rate or B) Get even more groundballs than he does now. If his ratio is, say, 2 or 2.3 to 1, he can be the middle of the rotation starter, probably a capable #3 on most teams, and a #4 on the best teams. If the K’s don’t come, there’s no reason he can’t be a capable 5th starter or a middle to late inning reliever. His conditioning could be an issue, he’s a big boy, but we’ll wait and see on that. With a strong 2007 at AAA, he’ll be in line for a big league job in 2008, and he could see a jump to a B+ prospect in my book…..which I’m sure is his top priority. I put his chances of reaching his ceiling at 55%, his chances of hitting his floor at 90%, meaning basically, I see him as a major leaguer a year from now in some form.