Daily Archives: February 8, 2007

Prospect Grades: Pfinsgraff, Donald, Yarbrough

As I finish up the prospects who spent time at Lakewood and move into short season prospects, I just want to remind everyone how difficult it is to figure out players who have only played for a half season, or at most, two seasons, against mostly high school competition. You can draw some conclusions based on the numbers, you can make some guesses, but for the most part, you’re in “wait and see” mode, which while true with all prospects, is even more relevant for guys playing in the lower levels.

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Pfinsgraff, Ben, RHP (age 23) Grade = B+

Pfinsgraff, the Phillies 22nd round pick in 2006, isn’t a scouts dream, but he’s a guy I’m going to keep an eye on in 2007, because he could surprise some people. Drafted as a college senior out of Maryland, the expectations weren’t high, particularly because he was coming off a minor shoulder injury (inflammation) and because he is a smallish RHP (6’0, 180lbs) without dynamite stuff. He features average stuff across the board, but has good command, and is most widely praised because of his baseball aptitude and ability to prepare for a game. The Phillies started him at Batavia, where he dominated for 40 innings, posting a 1.12 ERA, allowing only 25 H and 10 walks to 44 strikeouts. He was quickly promoted to Lakewood, where he logged another 23.2 IP, posting a 2.28 ERA, allowing 17 H, 8 BB and striking out 25. The thing that jumps out at me are the strikeouts. In his junior and senior seasons, he averaged 8.51 and 6.75 K/9 at a big NCAA school, but he jumped that number up to 9.70/9 over two levels. His control was excellent (2.53 BB/9), he was pretty unhittable, holding opposing batters to an OPS of .491, and he didn’t allow a single HR in his 64 IP. The reason I can’t give him higher marks is his age, as he was 22 in 2006 and turned 23 in November. He’s likely to stay in Lakewood, which means he’ll be old for the league, unless he’s turned into a reliever, in which case he could move much quicker through the system. My B+ grade is optimistic, and I rate him much much higher than any other outlet, but I like intelligent pitchers who understand how to get guys out and don’t rely purely on being able to ramp it up to 97 and blow guys away. There’s something to be said for being smarter than the batter and using average stuff to get lots of swings and misses and induce poor contact. Could he fall on his face at High A or AA? Sure, and there’s a better chance he will than won’t, but based on what he’s done, I’m giving him a B+, all things considered, even though based on pure numbers, he’s probably deserving of an even higher grade.

Ceiling: #3 starter or 7th inning reliever….not bad for a 22nd round pick.

Floor: Out of baseball in 3 years. Ben talked about how he wasn’t sure if baseball was his career after struggling a bit his senior year, but he decided he wants to give it his all until he realizes there’s no career in it for him. That seems like a somewhat morbid attitude, but it also sounds like it’s out of the Chris Coste playbook, and he turned out ok….eventually.

Conclusion: I like Pfinsgraff, for many of the reasons I stated above. He has an 89-92 mph fastball, little room for projection, and average secondary pitches. If his location remains a plus, if he keeps the ball on the ground, and if he continues to work and prepare, he will be a big league pitcher. The role in which he plays won’t be clear for a while, as it was thought he’d be moved to relief even in 2006, but he remained a starter, and pitched very well at Lakewood, so they might not be as quick to turn him into a reliever. He should see High A by July, if all goes well, and we should know a lot more about his long term future at that point.

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Donald, Jason, SS (age 22) Grade = C+

I wasn’t crazy about it when the Phillies took Donald in the third round of the 2006 draft, but I can see why they did. The Phillies have basically 1 legit prospect in the middle of the infield, and that’s Brad Harman, who had a nightmare 2006 season. Donald was a premier prospect a few years ago and turned down a 1 million dollar bonus from Anaheim as a 20th round flier pick to attend Arizona. His stock has dropped since then, but he hit enough and was solid enough defensively to go in the third round. The Phillies think he’ll have enough range to stay at SS, but his bat is the big question mark. His composite numbers at Batavia put him 19% or so above league average, but for a college player, this isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. His one surprising area was that he managed to steal 12 bases in 13 tries, after never stealing more than 7 in a season at Arizona. Donald appears to have another skill, getting plunked by pitches. In his three seasons at Arizona, he was hit a grand total 39 times, and he managed get hit 5 times at Batavia. This helps to raise his otherwise modest OB%, as he doesn’t draw a ton of walks. He made 9 errors at SS, but as I mentioned before, it’s tough to really assess fielding stats, especially in the lower levels, where field conditions are, shall we say, less than ideal. Donald’s grade was lowered based on his poor walk rate and lack of power at Batavia, but he could very well bounce back once fresh at Lakewood, and if he can steal 15-18 bases in 2007, it will improve his stock a bit.

Ceiling: A major league shortstop, but to what degree is uncertain. If his fielding drops off a bit, he looks more like a backup, especially if his bat doesn’t improve at Lakewood.

Floor: A utility infielder that bounces around and never really makes a mark.

Conclusion: Donald seems to do a bunch of things in above average fashion, but doesn’t really do anything overly well. He has a good hitting record in college and was lauded for his defense, we’ll have to see if it translates to his pro career. He’ll be the everyday SS at Lakewood, partnered in the middle of the infield with Adrian Cardenas at 2B. It should be an interesting combination to watch.

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Yarbrough, Charlie, 1B (age 22) Grade = C+

Yarbrough, the Phillies 7th round draft pick in 2006, really is an interesting guy. He has been overlooked since high school, attending smaller schools, despite his huge frame (6’6, 255 lbs) and his massive power potential. He played two seasons at Longwood University, a D-II program, and then transferred to Eastern Kentucky, another small school. In his junior year, he tossed up a .739 slugging %, including 18 HR in 55 G. Still, he went under the radar, mainly because of his lack of a position other than 1st, and his playing at a smaller school. The Phillies nabbed him, and I’m sure in the back of their mind, they were thinking “a righthanded Ryan Howard”, and it’s clear why, based on physical stature and college background. Yarbrough got his first taste of advanced competition by being sent to Batavia, and he struggled, putting up a .625 OPS in 204 AB. He struggled in every facet of the game, but again, you have to be somewhat lenient, based on his lack of top competition in college, going to a league where some guys are playing for the second time, and others are high profile college pitchers. His numbers against LHP and RHP were fairly similar, and he made 5 errors. I could probably give him a straight C, but his college performance was strong, from all accounts he has a tremendous work ethic, and he is entitled to a free pass for his 2006. He’ll probably be the full time 1B at Lakewood, and if he turns it on, we’ll see what he can do, and if he doesn’t, his grade will drop.

Ceiling: A major league 1B who hits the ball really hard

Floor: Organizational filler

Conclusion: The Ryan Howard paralells are there, both on and off the field, but Howard put up an .840 OPS at Batavia in his age 21 season, compared to the .625 from CY. In his first full season, Howard put up an .827 OPS at Lakewood, with 19 HR in 493 AB. If Yarbrough ends up in that area, then we’ll be talking. However, anything in the .780-.800 range would be acceptable, in his first pro season. With guys like this, the chances of them succeeding are smaller than most, mainly because they are position locked. The potential for a 40 HR hitting beast is there, but we’ll see what happens. If he can’t adjust to offspeed pitches, he might not even hit 4 HR. Like Pfinsgraff, my grade might be generous now, but I’m willing to risk it.