Welcome to the latest edition of my weekly notes column. Inside you’ll find some of my thoughts on the past week’s games, some general thoughts on the season so far, some draft talk, and whatever else comes to mind. Before I dig in to this week’s column, I wanted to point out a few things on the site. First, I’ve just added a “Technology Guide” to the top left of the site navigation, right under the rules/faq. This is what I referenced last week with regard to RSS feeds and other cool ways to follow the Phillies minor league teams. I put it together in one big post and linked it, so it should be easy to find in the future if you wanted to look something up. Second, I’ve begun to do some cleanup on the left side of the page under the “Prospect Features” subsection, making sure our legit prospects have tags, and moving some of the guys who really aren’t prospects anymore down to their respective categories underneath. If you see that someone is missing and you think they should have a category for themselves, make a note of it on the Reader Entries page. Thanks. You may have also noticed that I’ve re-arranged the pages at the top of the site, and added a page called “Live Events”. This page is currently just a placeholder, but I hope to have more info on this later. I also referenced the “Stats Shop” page last week. This is going to be my place to post cool statistics stuff when I have it, including Game Scores, estimated pitch count information, and then probably full gamelogs as well. For now it just contains the Game Scores stuff, but it will be expanded as the season progresses. I’m continually looking for ways to improve the interface here, to add new features, and to make the site better. If you have suggestions, please email me at sweptaway at gmail dot com. Now, let’s get to the notes for the week…
* I wanted to start with a note on how I approach looking at prospects. For those of you who have been around here for a long time, you probably have a good idea of what I place emphasis on, but looking at the numbers for site hits since the season has started, I think its safe to assume that I’ve gotten some new readers this season. For a long, drawn out explanation you can read my intro to my Top 30 prospects to get an idea. Essentially, for hitters, I’m looking at three big things; plate discipline, raw power, and contact skills. Plate discipline and power are the core functions of any hitter at the plate. Without discipline, you won’t be getting on base at a high clip, and on base percentage is the most valuable part of a player’s stat line. There are only 27 outs in a game, making one of them is bad, making 3 or 4 or 5 in a game is really bad. Hitting for power is important, because obviously a double is better than a single, a triple is better than a double, and heck, just touching all four bases is better than anything else. Lastly, if you can’t make contact, you’re not going to end up with many hits, and when you do make contact, you’re subject to the same amount of luck that everyone else is. Boiling it down, guys with good plate discipline, who hit for power, and have manageable strikeout rates are very valuable commodities. You can be an excellent prospect if you only possess 2 of the above. Guys who draw lots of walks, hit lots of home runs, and strike out a ton are often referred to as “Three True Outcomes” players. Guys who draw tons of walks and hit for a high average also have lots of value, because they are consistently on base. Guys with lots of power and great contact skills likewise have a lot of value. Even if you only possess one of these skills, you can still be valuable. Base running is important, but its less important than the previous three, and without plate discipline or good contact rates, pure speed becomes even less valuable. For pitchers, strikeout rate is the biggest factor, and I weigh that significantly more than anything else. When a pitcher throws a pitch, one of two things will happen; the batter will swing, or he won’t. If he swings, he’ll either make contact or he won’t. When a batter makes contact, the pitcher essentially loses all control. Either the ball will be hit at someone, and that fielder will convert it into an out or he won’t. Or the ball can find an opening and go for a hit, or the ball will go foul, or the ball will go over the fence. This is where luck comes in, and where BABIP is important. Pitchers generally have little control over their BABIP, with some exceptions. This is why I like statistics like DICE, DIPS, FIP and xFIP, because they remove some of the luck and look only at peripherals. For pitchers, the three peripherals to focus on are strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate. I weigh K rate more heavily than walk rate, and both K rate and walk rate significantly more than HR rate, but HR rate is still important. For a pitcher, the best thing you say about him is that he can consistently get batters to swing and miss. Guys who are relying on trickery, their defense, or a higher power are at the mercy of luck much moreso than guys who can flat out get guys to swing and miss.
So, a quick cheat sheet
Hitters: BB rate, ISO (raw power), K rate and you can tie it all together by looking at Secondary Average
Pitchers: K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and BABIP. A high BABIP with an in-line Line Drive rate probably means the pitcher was unlucky
The other component, and one I am really big believer in, is age related to level, or ARL. When looking at a prospect, his age is vital to determining what kind of future he might have. Not all prospects develop at the same rate, but generally speaking, you should be playing against guys who are the same age, or have the same level of experience as you. If you’re 18 and playing basketball against a 14 year old, you should have an advantage, and in a lot of cases, a big advantage. Likewise, if you’re a 4 year college veteran and playing in the GCL, where most prospects are high school kids aged 17-19, you should be able to dominate them. Guys who are 2-3-4 years older than their competition should be flat out dominating. Anything less raises serious questions about their prospect status going forward. You don’t see many 23 year olds in Low A go on to be superstars in the big leagues.
These are a few simple things to think about when looking at box scores and reading about prospects.
* And now, the news. Jarred Cosart left Saturday night’s start with a blister issue on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Blisters are weird things, some guys struggle with them for years, other guys have one, it heals, and its never an issue again. Rather than try to pitch through it or alter anything, the Phillies will just shut him down and let it heal. He was placed on the 7 day DL, so he’ll miss 1 start, maybe 2, and he should be back out there. If you remember, Josh Beckett dealt with blister issues in the beginning of his career, but has been fine since the beginning of 2006. Nothing to get overly concerned about. Tyson Gillies injured his hand in batting practice on Tuesday, and sat out until Saturday night, coming back with a 2/4 outing. After getting off to a really rough start, Gillies had 3 straight multi hit games and appears to be getting on track. He’s also been outstanding defensively, which you can see here and here.
* Onto the notable performances of the week. Phillippe Aumont tossed a gem, throwing 6 hitless innings, as he allowed 2 walks, struck out 4, and induced 8 groundballs to 5 flyballs. I lost track of the radio after the first few innings, but from what I heard, Aumont was 90-93 with his fastball, and was featuring what the announcer called a hard slider. I’m sure we’ll get more on his start here, but you have to love what he put up there today. He was happy with his effort, and he took time to credit his teammates, which is always nice to see. As has been discussed a number of times, Aumont is working on re-discovering his old motion and mechanics, and whenever you make a change like that, its going to take time to adjust. His last start was a definite step in the right direction, and this start is probably the best of his pro career. Definite means for optimism.
* On the downside, Brody Colvin got rocked again. His line was 1.1 IP – 7 ER – 6 H – 2BB – 0 K. His season line so far; 10.1 IP – 15ER – 18 H – 5 BB – 6 K. Obviously this looks pretty ugly. Am I concerned? Not really. You want guys to come out of the shoot quickly and dominate, but as I mentioned above, the developmental curve isn’t the same for everyone. Some guys struggle with arm strength early in the season, some guys can’t get comfortable, and sometimes it just takes a while for things to click. If Colvin’s ERA is over 10 in July, I’ll be worried. Right now, not worried.
* Its been slow and steady for Domonic Brown. For the season, he’s at .324/.375/.514 with 5 XBH – 3 BB – 9 K. Its somewhat surprising to me that he’s only 1 for 3 in SB this season, I figured he’d have run a bit more, but the power is still decent in the early going. As the weather warms up, I think he’ll start to hit for more power. He’s making good enough contact at this point, so really all is well with Brown. Freddy Galvis, after his hot start, has tailed off, and is now hitting just .128 in his last 10 games. Sergio Escalona, Mike Stutes and Michael Schwimer appear to be sharing the closer duties, and all three have pitched well.
* Cody Overbeck has been a guy that has come up a bunch of times over the past week, as he’s had his hitting shoes on, as he has 3 multi hit games, 4 doubles and a home run. His issues are two fold though. He doesn’t draw many walks, and has only 3 on the season, and he turns 24 in a few weeks. His defense at 3B was considered shaky coming out of the draft, and I’m not sure its improved much since turning pro. He has a decent amount of pop, but he’s probably not going to hit more than 15 HR a year. He’d need to be a 35-40 doubles a year guy to make up for the lack of HR power to profile at 3B. But because he’s already on the verge of turning 24, he realistically should be in AAA, not A+. His best case scenario right now is probably as a utility guy in the Greg Dobbs mold, capable of playing 3B and the corner OF spots. Of course, we don’t really know if he has the chops to handle an OF corner, but it would benefit the Phillies to find out relatively soon.
* I went out on a big limb this winter ranking Domingo Santana as my #4 prospect. And so far, I’m thrilled with what he’s done at Lakewood. He’s the youngest player in the league by almost one full year.
Domingo Santana, RF (8/5/92): .234/.413/.404
Wilmer Flores, SS (8/6/91): .361/.403/.569
Tommy Joseph, C (7/16/91): .246/.329/.431
Christian Bethancourt, C (9/2/91): .259/.281/.333
I’m impressed. And I think that as he gets more comfortable, you’re going to see even more from him. Santana has struck out 22 times, which is a lot, but he also has 11 walks, which ranks tied for 4th in the SAL.
* I want to start talking about the draft here, and I’m going to have more posts on it coming up in the coming weeks, but we need to start somewhere. The Phillies pick 27th this year, so we’ll have a first rounder to look forward to, unlike last year. The Phillies first 3 picks will be
Let’s take a quick look at the Phillies first 3 rounds in the last 5 drafts
3C = College Junior
4C = College Senior
HS = High School
JC = Junior College
The second two letter abbreviation is the state
2005: Costanzo*, 3B (3C, SC), Maloney, LHP (3C, MS), Durant, 1B (HS, CA)
2006: Drabek, RHP (HS, TX), Cardenas, 2B (HS, FL), Carpenter, RHP (3C, CA), Donald, SS (3C, AZ)
2007: Savery, LHP (3C, TX), d’Arnaud, C (HS, CA), Mattair, 3B (HS, WA), Workman, RHP (HS, TX)
2008: Hewitt, 3B (HS, CT), Collier, OF (HS, CA), Gose, OF (HS, CA), Knapp, RHP (HS, NJ), Worley, RHP (3C, CA), Pettibone, RHP (HS, CA)
2009: Dugan*, OF (HS, CA), Hudson, OF (HS, WA), Buschini, 2B (3C, CA)
* 2nd round
So what are the trends. You all know by now that the Phillies love raw, athletic position players, as well as tall, projectable righthanded pitchers. But they don’t always go that way. Of the five first picks, 2 were college guys and 3 were high school guys. There are 20 picks listed above, the breakdown is
Then a bunch of other states.
Drabek is arguably the best prospect of the bunch, and was an undersized righty who had major makeup issues prior to being drafted. That seemed to work out ok for the Phillies, and Drabek eventually turned into Roy Halladay. The Phillies have drafted LHP, RHP, middle infielders, outfielders, a 3B, and a C. So they will basically take anyone. They haven’t drafted a college reliever in the first 3 rounds, so you can probably cross out college closers, which I think is a good thing. The state breakdown is pretty simple. Teams have a small army of scouts assigned to different parts of the country. The size of scouting departments vary, but generally you assign one guy to a huge baseball hotbed state like California or Florida or Texas. And when you continually draft guys from these states, you are showing your trust in your area guy and your area crosschecker. It doesn’t apply so much to CA, FL and TX because those states generally churn out the most prospects anyway, but its more applicable to smaller states. The Phillies have been scouting the Pacific Northwest more and more, and they’ve taken a number of guys in the first 10 rounds there, including Julian Sampson, Trevor May, Kyrell Hudson and Travis Mattair. The success rate there obviously varies.
The takeaway is, the Phillies preference is obviously to take the best athlete available, or the most projectable RHP available, but they’re not afraid to go in another direction if the opportunity presents itself. One thing to keep in mind when looking over potential prospects. The Phillies have shown a willingness to spend in recent drafts, but they’ll likely never be in a position where they could take, for instance, Bryce Harper if he would slide to them by telling people he wanted $15M to sign. The Phillies will spend, but will do so a bit more reasonably than the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Tigers.
There are a number of great resources available to find information on the guys to watch in the 2010 draft. The first link is MLB Bonus Baby, which is part of the SB Nation ring. You’ll find tons of scouting reports, mock drafts, and other information here, and the guy who runs the site does a fair bit of actual scouting, as well as reporting on what he is hearing from other scouts. The second resource is PnR scouting, where you will again get tons of good info that isn’t hidden behind pay walls. The official minorleaguebaseball site also has scouting reports and videos of the bigger name prospects. There other sites out there, there are sites with lots of pay content, and you can find random videos of prospects on youtube. When I find information on the draft, I’ll pass it along. The draft is a little less than 2 months away, and draft boards are going to change drastically over that time, so right now its pointless to try and ask people to link names to teams outside of the top 5, and even the top 5 is subject to change. That said, here are a few of my favorite guys that I’ve seen video of
* Cameron Bedrosian, RHP (click here for report and video). Cam, son of former Phillie Steve, is a lot like Kyle Drabek for me. He’s not very tall (6’0, 205) but he has big time arm strength, consistently sitting 91-94 and touching 96. His fastball is fairly straight, but Drabek’s was the same prior to learning to add movement and throw more of a 2 seam fastball. Like Drabek, Bedrosian has a plus breaking ball that he throws anywhere from 69-78 from the two videos of him I’ve seen. He can snap it off with sharp break or throw it a little softer for a strike. Like Drabek, he has MLB bloodlines, and he’s a tough competitor. He isn’t the tall projectable guy that the Phillies normally target, but because of the similarities to Drabek, I wouldn’t rule him out. PnR Scouting has Bedrosian as the 29th best pitching prospect available, while MLB Bonus Baby has him as the 34th best prospect overall, so there is a divergence of opinion on him. Its unlikely that he will be there at #77, so I suppose to grab him, it would have to happen at 27, but that might be a slight reach. But he’s a name I want to follow for the next 6 weeks.
* Aaron Sanchez, RHP (Click here to see video). Sanchez fits more into the Phillies mold, as he’s already 6’3/170 and has long arms and legs, which bodes well for future projection. His fastball is 90-93 with some life, though he doesn’t appear to be as advanced. Its not tough to envision him consistently throwing 93-95 when he’s done filling out. I’ve seen him ranked in the 40’s-70’s, so he’s another guy in that tweener range as far as where the Phillies are picking.
Jacoby Jones, SS (Click here for video). Jones is a quality prep prospect in the physical mold of Troy Tulowitzki, but he might not stick there, and could be forced to either 2B or 3B. He looks to have solid projection and power potential, as well as a relatively simple swing. I’ve seen him ranked in the back part of various Top 100’s, so he could be a possibility for our 2nd pick.
Hunter Morris, 1B (Click here for video). Morris was a Red Sox draftee in 2007 and turned down a big money offer to head to college. He struggled in 2009, but has bounced back this year. He’s athletic and fields the position well, but he has 30 HR power and good plate discipline, which is kind of what you want at 1B. Jon Singleton is the only 1B prospect in the org to even get excited about, and he’s in extended spring training. The Phillies seem to avoid drafting legit power threats, but it would be nice to see them alter that approach this year. Morris has a 1.236 OPS this season, with 14 2B, 13 HR and a 15/32 BB/K rate.
Another guy who I don’t have video on is Micah Gibbs, the catcher for LSU. The Phillies have Sebastian Valle, but Gibbs profiles as an excellent starting catcher in the big leagues, and is having a monster offensive season, hitting .408/.482/.606 in 142 AB, with more walks (17) than strikeouts (15) in one of the best conferences in baseball. I’ve seen Gibbs projected to be a late first round pick, so he could be there at #27.
You really want to take the best available player, but I’d really prefer the Phillies not take another raw high school outfielder. The system has issues really all over the infield positions, and we could stand to add an impact player at one of those spots, or at worst, add another power arm, preferably from the left side. If an excellent, can’t miss OF is there, then you take him, but at 27, I think you can afford to take a player who might help you in an area where you are lacking.
* Finally, its time for your 5 random splits/stat nuggets of the week, many of which are irrelevant, but this is just for fun
1. Leandro Castro has been caught stealing 6 times in 9 tries….might be wise to drop anchor at 1B.
2. Yohan Flande continues to amaze. 18.2 IP, 0.96 ERA, yet only 5 K and 2 BB in those 18+ innings. He gave up 12 hits last time out, but escaped with only 2 ER. Smoke and mirrors….
3. Matt Way’s peripherals have been fine, but he’s sporting a .478 BABIP. When that normalizes, so will his ERA
4. Anthony Hewitt has a .927 OPS v RHP, and a .401 OPS v LHP
5. For some reason, Jonathan Villar has been moved to 9th in the order. And with it, he’s stopped hitting. He’s just 2 for 20 in his last 5 games.
That’s it for the week. Discuss!