Prospect Grades: Slayden, Baez, Hernandez

Before I continue on with the grades, a few people were wondering about my criteria on grades, so I figured I’d expand on what I wrote in my first piece. My original comments were:

I don’t want to get into explaining tons of formulas, but here are my basic evaluation methods. I’m going to base most of my grades on performance, relative to the league average, and then consider age and position. For example, when looking at a guy like Mike Costanzo, I’m going to look at his performance against those in the FSL, then consider a multiplier for his position, 3B, then consider his age in relation to his league. Defensive analysis is tough, even at the ML level, so I’m not going to alter my grade much in that area, but I will consider it and weigh it slightly. I’m not really going to use a player’s tools or what others think he could be, I’m simply going to grade based on what the player has done. I’m going to place a higher weight on 2006 performance, but also consider past performance and other aspects of the player’s body of work/makeup.

When evaluating all the players I’ve done so far, I’ve taken their 2006 numbers and weighed them against the league average for the league they’ve pitched in. I’ve then considered their position or role and taken that into account. I’m much more “demanding” of a corner OF or corner INF offensively, because they need to produce offensively on a higher level to project to any kind of future success at the major league level. I also have been considering possible off the field stuff, like in the case of Brad Harman, and I’ve also considered age for the level, as well as possible things like makeup concerns. I try to limit adjustments to the grade to one position. For example, I’ll figure out the player’s performance, relative to his league, then adjust for age and position/role, and then I’ll take that grade and either leave it alone, bump it up a half grade or drop it a half grade, so either from a B to a B-/B+ or just leave it a B. As for figuring out what is what, basically, this my “scale”: a C prospect is basically a minor league average player, not the average prospect, just the average for the league. So, if the league average for A+ is a .255/.327/.376 line (which it is, for the FSL), then I take a player’s numbers in those areas and weigh them, except I don’t use batting average, instead just using on base %. Then I consider age and position/role and adjust if necessary. Then, I take that grade and adjust. You have to consider, an average minor leaguer, for his level, probably doesn’t deserve a high prospect status, because you’d assume that a player who can’t at least put up above average numbers against minor leaguers won’t be able to put up numbers against major leaguers. So, for an example, let’s use Greg Golson, since his grade raised a lot of comments.

At Lakewood, he was 22% below average in OB% and 11% below average in slugging, for a 33% below league average total. At Clearwater, he was 1% below average in OB% and 25% above average in slugging, for a 24% above average total. When you look at his total performance, he was about 10% below average as a whole based purely on performance. 10% below the minor league average, which considers mercenaries as well as prospects, rates him a D+/C- on the scale. His high A numbers should get a bit more weight because he was only 20 at that level, but then you have to consider he’s a corner OF, and the offensive demands are going to be higher for him than for, say, a shortstop, and when you put the numbers in that lens, they aren’t quite as impressive. If the slugging % he put up at Clearwater is for real, then his prospect outlook is a bit better, but if not, then he deserves the D+ number. I probably discounted his speed to an extent, so then again, maybe he’s a C-, based purely on his numbers. But when you factor in the makeup questions and the poor OB% number, at both levels, I think a D+ is certainly warranted, by the way I’ve been rating players.

For comparison’s sake, here’s another player I’ve already graded and why I gave him that grade specifically. I gave Joe Bisenius a B+ a few days ago, and here’s why. At high A, Bisenius was basically 35% above average in terms of H/9, K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 combined, and at AA, he was an eye popping 86% above league average in those categories. If you average them together, that’s an average of 60% above league average across both levels. A prospect that is 60% better than his league is normally a straight A prospect, but with Bisenius, adjustments were necessary. First, he pitched 60 innings at high A as opposed to only 23 innings at AA, so you have to adjust his grades. In his case, to weigh his average performance, I took the 35% and multiplied it by 3, then took his 86% and added it to that number, then divided it by 4. The result was 48%, which seems a little more in line, but would still be right around a straight A grade. Then, I considered his age. He was only 23, but that’s still on the top end of the average prospect age at high A, so I bumped him down another half grade to an A-. I then considered that he is an exclusive reliever, which limits some of his long term value, but the thing that truly made him a B+ (and almost a B, really) is his walk rate. This, along with K rate, are the two biggest things I consider when trying to predict which pitchers will succeed going forward. At both A+ and AA, Bisenius was right at the league average for all pitchers, and to me, that is slightly worrisome. His hit rate and K rate were outstanding at both levels, but he does need to work on his command and control. So, considering that, I bumped his grade down to a B+. I could have bumped it down to a B, all of that considered, but his K rate was strong enough, coupled with his ability to keep the ball in the park, so I left him at a B+.

I hope those explanations help to clear up some questions. Also, remember, this is just one man’s opinion here, I’m more than aware that others are going to disagree with me on certain guys and agree with me on certain guys. When writing these up, sometimes I’m honestly in between a grade, and if someone makes a convincing case, I’ll update the grade. With Golson, I clearly was harsh with the original F, and deep down, I knew he deserved a D+ or maybe a C- even, but I needed someone to snap me out of it, and thankfully some of you did. With that said, here is another batch of grades. But before we get these out, I forgot to do the ceiling, floor and conclusion for the last two batches of guys, so I’m going to go back and update those later, be sure and check back in on those. Because of those necessary updates, only 3 grades today.

slayden.jpg

Slayden, Jeremy, OF (age 24) Grade = B-

I guess it makes sense that I grade Slayden now after just explaining my theory on adjusting grades. Slayden raked in a big way at Lakewood in 2006, to the tune of an .891 OPS, and his ob% and slugging % put him a combined 50% above the league average for the SAL. That should mean a higher grade, right? Well, if you follow the minors closely, you know the downsides to Slayden without me having to mention them. He turned 24 in July, so he was clearly way too old for the SAL, and he has major defensive question marks, with a poor arm that will probably limit him to LF or possibly 1B down the road. He also lacks any real speed, stealing only 5 bases. Now, the positives. He can hit the cover off the ball; 44 doubles and 10 home runs is a solid contribution, even if he was 2-3 years too old for the league. If he repeats that feat at Reading in 2007, then he’ll be a solid B prospect, maybe even more. The question is, where does he play? Unless the Phillies move to the AL sometime soon, or the DH is adopted in the NL (*vomit*), Slayden is going to have to play the field, or he won’t be an everyday player. Can his defense improve to the level of him being an adequate corner outfielder? I’m not sure. If it does, his grade will improve as long as he continues to rake. On strictly numbers, he’d be an A- prospect, but when you factor the age and the defense, he has to be a B-. 2007 could change my mind, we’ll see.

Ceiling: It’s tough to guage what type of major league contributor he’ll be. If he crushes the ball at Reading, his age won’t be such a big issue, but we need to see what he can do defensively. If he’s passable in LF, his ceiling could be a .800-.870 OPS LF at the big league level. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. He could be looking at something like a .280/.370/.500 line as his high point, and that would be outstanding.

Floor: Unfortunately, this is just as tough to predict. If he can’t play defense, he’s destined to be a DH, and that will come in another organization. It looks like he’ll hit though, that shouldn’t be a worry.

Conclusion: Slayden is one of those guys who may surprise a lot of people, or he may just turn into a 24th man type guy, capable of DH’ing or playing an emergency LF or 1B. The best case, if he’s to remain in the Phillies org, is that he becomes a passable LF and can step into a 4th OF/backup 1B role sometime in 2008 or 2009, when he’ll be entering his age 26/27 season. I really don’t know how to place odds, because he’s only played one full season. I like him though, so I’ll put the odds of him reaching his ceiling at 50%, with the odds of him hitting his floor being 75%. He seems like a guy that’s going to always hit, but if he can’t play the field, he’s going to end up being traded as part of a bigger deal to an American League team.

baez.jpg

Baez, Welinson, 3B (age 22) Grade = D+

I wonder if I’ll get similar feedback on Baez like I did on Golson….I’ll guess no, but we’ll see. Baez, as many know, was touted by the organization for his feel for the game and raw tools, but so far, the tools haven’t translated to on the field performance. He spent all of 2003 and 2004 at the GCL and struggled, then he impressed in 2005 in his third shot, posting a .933 OPS, and followed it with a .932 OPS at Batavia to end the year. He honestly looked like a breakout candidate for 2006….but all he broke was my heart, just a tiny bit. He posted an abysmal .673 OPS in the SAL as a 22 year old, and his prospect status again takes a big hit. His .305 OB% was about 7% below average, his .368 slugging % about 2% below average. Add that up, and you’ve got a guy about 10% below league average, at the top of his age group for said league, and playing a position where offense is a premium….oh, and he 33 errors in 122 games. Ouch. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with his grade. He struggled two years in a row at the GCL level, he made a ton of errors, and he was 5 for 10 in SB. Where are the positives? His 34 doubles are nice, but his 158 strikeouts in 427 AB’s nearly make me sick, considering he had a whopping 6 HR. Could he be a C- guy? Maybe, but going on what I posted above, no, considering he is 22. It was his first season of pro ball, does that make him a C-? Eh, I don’t know. I don’t think he has much of a future, at least with this organization. The past regime spent the money to sign him, they took the time to develop him, but will Gillick be that patient? His 40 man decision will come at the end of 2007.

Ceiling: Another guy with the ceiling of Abe Nunez. Really, the outlook isn’t good. Honestly, his ceiling at this point is a utility infielder.

Floor: His floor is out of baseball in 3 years. That looks like a more realistic destination

Conclusion: When you sign free agents from Latin American countries, you never know if you’re getting the next Felix Hernandez or a guy who will flame out in 3 years. It’s nice the Phillies took the chance on Baez, but so far, it doesn’t look good. I give him a 35% chance of reaching his ceiling, and a really really good chance of him hitting his floor and washing out of baseball. 2007 is a huge year for him, and should tell us whether or not he’ll be sticking around or not in 2008.

Hernandez, Fidel, SS (age 20) Grade = D+

We have a Fabio Castro and a Fidel Hernandez, that’s funny, huh? Fabio has shown much more ability than Fidel has, though Fidel is still young. Hernandez put up an eye popping .561 OPS at Lakewood, good for a 41% below average composite. That’s…..well, that’s awful. But, he was only 20 and playing full season ball. And, he’s a shortstop, so the offensive expectations are lower than for a guy like Baez. But, he made 25 errors in 99 games. Damn, he deserves an F, doesn’t he? No, I’m sticking with a D+. He had the rep of being a solid defensive SS, he might just need time to adjust. His offensive numbers were clearly vomit inducing, and he didn’t use his speed, with only 9 SB in 14 attempts, but I’m willing to see how he responds with his second full season before completely killing him as a prospect. At this time next year, there’s a really really good chance he gets an F, but we’ll see.

Ceiling: It’s hard to say right now. Could he become a slick fielding, no hit SS in the mold of Adam Everett? That’s probably being extremely optimistic, but really, that’s what we have to be in the case of young guys who can’t hit, but are supposedly good fielders.

Floor: See Baez, Welinson.

Conclusion: Really, I feel like I’m repeating myself here. Baez has a much longer track record, so he’s at a much more critical stage. Hernandez has time yet, and in his second season of pro ball, we should have a better idea of what he’s going to do. No doubt he was over-matched in 2006, but if he makes adjustments, he could put up a decent season in the .720-.750 range. That’s probably being really optimistic, but yeah well. I won’t even lay odds on him, not enough info.

8 thoughts on “Prospect Grades: Slayden, Baez, Hernandez

  1. Your comment–“2007 could change my mind, we’ll see”–should go
    without saying, no? Aren’t all your evaluations tentative and
    subject to alteration as the kid progresses through the org? As
    for Slayden, specifically, my understanding is that his defensive
    problems really revolve around his arm strength more than anything else. He wouldn’t be the only ML OF with that problem.
    But I think I’ve read somewhere, that his arm strength has
    improved slightly since he was drafted. Have you seen that?

  2. I can’t really argue with you about Baez, as much as I liked him
    after his ’05 year. He really blew it last year. His arm
    strength is considered one of his strong points. Despite his
    errors, he seems to have the best potential as a 3B in our
    system. But to stay viable he’s going to have to have a terrific
    year in ’07. History doesn’t suggest that he will. Hence he’s
    gone after next summer.

    Given his arm, will another organization try to make a pitcher
    out of him?

  3. I was following Hernandez a bit last summer. He started out
    slowly but showed steady improvement with the bat (reaching the
    .290-.300 level) until sometime after mid-season. Unfortunately,
    he then fell off and did not come back. If his bat is the critical factor, there may still be hope.

  4. Yeah, the “2007 will tell us more, we’ll see” kind of applies to all prospects, but some guys have a bigger track record to judge on, others really don’t.

  5. I rate Baez a little behind Golson. They are both tools guys who haven’t performed up to the projections of their talent. Both have shown more on D than on O, although Golson seems to need less defensive polishing than Baez. The big difference to me is that Baez is more than a year older than Golson and yet never made it out of low A ball, while Golson did at least ok at high A. Baez did have the better OPS at Lakewood, but couldn’t reach .700.

  6. I really like Slayden, and wish they could find a spot for him. His OF defense can’t be that much worse than Burrell’s, can it??

  7. Why is Slayden still pounding the Florida State League when it’s pretty obvious he’s out classing his competition and is old for the league?
    The Phils are hurting for outfield prospects, it would seem like if they had someone that can hit the way he does, the fast-track would be the way to go.
    This guy looks like the next John Kruk.

Comments are closed.