Friday, April 29, 2011

Weekly MiL – Breakdown: The Hitting Prospects

After looking at the pitching prospects last week I’m going to take the 2nd look at the Rays hitting prospects today.

The first announcement is that I’ve added Henry Wrigley to the hitting prospect chart as he has shown good power and contact skills in his first plate appearances. With the possible addition of other hitting candidates, like for instance John Matulia and Stephen Vogt, I’ll wait another two weeks. And while – not just for Wrigley – the sample sizes still are very small, we can read much more out of the data now than two weeks ago.

Hitting prospects stats overview

The overall numbers of the top 15 hitting prospects pre season are still fairly strong (.815 OPS, .373 wOBA), but they are highly influenced by Hak-Ju Lee’s phenomenal start to the season (1.259 OPS, 0.524 wOBA). Therefore, he is my prospect of the week. On the other hand, the performances of other top hitting prospects, namely Desmond Jennings, Luke Bailey, Tim Beckham and Derek Dietrich, cooled off a bit. Especially the Hot Rods prospects struggled over the last two weeks with the overall team OPS falling to .647 (14th of 16 midwest league teams). With Todd Glaesmann (while improving a bit), Kevin Kiermaier and Cody Rogers having an OPS of .575 or lower, especially the teams’ outfielders have been underperforming.

(Click at the image for a larger view)

  • 3 prospects on the rise

1) Hak-Ju Lee … Just wow! But more on him later.

2) Brandon Guyer … While Desmond Jennings’ hot start cooled off a bit (mostley cause of bad luck), Guyer still smashes AAA pitching. With better plate discipline he could become a major league starter. The tools are there.

3) Tyler Bortnick … The other part of the impressive Stone Crabs middle infield plays extraordinary in his own way. A .398 wOBA with excellent plate discipline (13.3 BB%, 12 K%; 9:3 BB:K ratio in his last 52 PA’s). He looks very solid on the basepaths as well (5 SB; 0 caught attempts), while a bit more power would be great (0 HR, 0.104 ISO)

  • 3 prospects falling

1) Matt Sweeney … His already slim prospect status is dwindling very fast. A wOBA of 0.222 (only 0.171 in his last 42 PA’s) for a guy who doesn’t play at a premium position and repeats the level! That’s not encouraging.

2) Luke Bailey … Bailey cooled off significantly since his hot start. His wOBA for the first 23 PA (0.497) compared to the next 28 PA (0.196) shows that. Especially the shaky K:BB ratio (15:4) concerns me. But, don’t worry yet, still small sample size.

3) Cody Rogers … While not decreasing over his slow season start, he doesn’t show lots of improvements either.

The prospect of the week: Hak-Ju Lee

  • How acquired? Matt Garza trade (from Cubs who signed him as an international free agent for 725,000 $)
  • Born: 11/4/90 (in South Korea)
  • Position: SS
  • B/T: L/R
  • '11 MiL team: Charlotte Stone Crabs (A+)

Early impressions suggest that Keith Law might has been right after all. He stated that Lee is THE price out of the Matt Garza package for the Rays (while still rating Archer higher in his prospect rankings). And while Chris Archer and Robinson Chirinos struggle out of the gate, Hak-Yu Lee looked even more impressive than Brandon Guyer who himself shows great power and contact in AAA.

Lets see what Kevin wrote about him in the Rays Prospect Guide for ’11:

“Lee projects to be a well-above average defensive shortstop because of his plus-plus speed and, despite Tommy Johny surgery before he was signed, a strong throwing arm. Rated the best defensive shortstop in the Midwest League, he's a smooth fielder with very good range and reactions. He is prone to errors (34 total last season) on easy-looking plays, but that's correctable and should improve as he plays more.

At the plate, he profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter. He makes good contact from the left side, and his strikeout rate actually declined as he was promoted to full-season ball. His .330 batting average in the Northwest League was helped by a .397 BABIP, but even as that regressed last year, his .282 mark with Peoria was very good considering his age and environment. He has solid plate discipline and will draw at least an average number of walks. Once he's on base, he uses his speed well. In 190 games over two seasons, he's stolen 57 bases and been caught 15 times.

The drawback to Lee's game is that he currently hits for very little power and doesn't project to hit for much more.”

Other scouting reports (like for example this one and this one) confirm Kevin’s look at Lee and give some more very interesting details. Lee offers plus speed (reportedly 11 seconds over 100m) and agility, a plus arm, quick catch and release tools, above average contact tools and plate discipline as well as the tools for average future power. He recognizes off-speed pitches fairly early, has a good eye for the strike zone and should improve his pitch selection once he gets more polished. The bat speed and hand-eye coordination are good enough in order to turn on fastballs as well. His quick bat makes him a legitimate threat to the gaps while his projected lack of much homerun power seems to be the only knock I can find on him. His speed allows him to become an above average threat at the basepaths as well. Summarized he is a very well rounded prospect at a premium position who projects for at least average defense at short, a bat that can play at the top of the order and above average speed at the basepaths.

So, what do his stats tell us? They tell us that Lee is already very polished despite his young age for A+ and for him already having had TJ Surgery (on his throwing elbow). He takes his share of walks (12 BB%; even 13 BB% with yesterdays game included) while striking out with more than an acceptable rate (16 K%). He shows excellent contact skills and even some power (already 2 HR, which is one more than in all of ’10). All of the above has led to a whopping 0.524 wOBA and an OPS of 1.259. And while he’ll regress a bit (0.531 BABIP), I think he’ll be more than fine in the long run.

I do think the Rays will play him one level every year, but you never know. If he keeps up hitting the way he has done, they could promote him after about 2/3 of the season. Nevertheless, his ETA seems to be late 2013. In his way in the depth chart are Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez at the major league level as well as Tim Beckham in AAA. But, as Lee projects better offensively as Brignac, better defensively as Beckham and as Rodriguez is best suited to 2B, he shouldn’t be blocked if fulfilling his potential. At the latest starting with the 2014 season he looks to be the Rays shortstop of the present (and the future) … and he has the ceiling to be a quality one.

Glossary

All of the stats provided above are excluding the stats from the previous day. I preferrably use 3 sources for the stats. Click on each stat for its explanation:

20 comments:

  1. STDR (still the devil rays)April 29, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    in depth info! great fucking post!

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  2. Thx. Glad you like it!

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  3. Agree, very nice work BurGi. Of the players in the chart near the bottom, I'm still not worried about Guevara. He's the youngest (1/2 a year younger than Bailey), he's been rushed by Rays standards, and the K% is reasonable. I'll be interested to see how he handles a full 140 game schedule though, might see a dropoff late summer as he tires.

    BurGi, I have Lee as signing out of Korea in June 2008 with the Cubs for $725,000. Not that it matters for this article, but just FYI for the future, we just may be writing about him again :).

    The spreadsheet is awesome btw, been staring at it for 10 minutes! Thanks for another great job.

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  4. I have seen 725,000 as well. But there are other sources who say 1.15 mio (e.g.: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/top-10-prospects-for-2010-chicago-cubs-and-st.-louis-cardinals1/). Couldn't easily tell which resources are more reliable. After checking Cot's right now I think the 725,000 are more accurate. So I've changed it.

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  5. Great Info ! thanks for the comprehensive information Awesome !
    I follow the Biscuits and went to all the games on the last home stand. Great to hear you have included Wrigley ! Iam really hoping he builds off of last years success ! Matulia and Vogt were looking great while I was there too. I know all three are not your typical prospects but they sure like there very good jitters ! I guess only time will tell.
    Thanks again for all your work ! Great Job !

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  6. I think 725k is right, hadn't seen the other number before, just checked and BA Handbook agrees with 725k too.

    If you're taking nominations to focus on for next weeks column (I assume it's on pitchers), how about CJ Riefenhauser? He might not be the best choice but if you decide to do anything on him let me know, I have some bio background info on him.

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  7. Could be a good choice, Doug. Especially when his next start is similar to yesterdays' (6 IP, 4H, 1ER, 11K, 1BB)!

    I'll let you know! Thanks!

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  8. I am very glad that HJL is off to an awesome start, but has anyone noticed that quite a few of his hits are of the infield or bunt form? I mean that shows that he has great speed, which is always a good thing, but is there a stat that shows his avg/obp without including infield hits?

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  9. Anon,

    Not really. BABIP is a good stat for that though.

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  10. Could someone explain babip to me ?
    Also let me know what is considered big league babip numbers.
    Congratulations to Alex Cobb getting called up to the show !

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  11. What about Greg Sextin and the tear he has been on. He is batting over 350 with a 12 game hitting steak already and at the top of the league in RBI's

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  12. I agree with the other Anonymous- Secton's on fire this year!

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  13. Im sorry but BABIP is a horrible stat. It basically shows luck. Having a high BABIP is actually a bad thing. any BABIP close to or over .400 is not good, it shows that someone has been lucky with any contact. look at a MLB BABIP leaders list and laugh.

    It takes away what is more important,actually putting the ball in play. Strikeout Ratio is much more telling to me. I prefer

    (SO) / (PA - IBB - SH)

    A few examples

    Example of Lee:
    (10)/ (58-0-2) = 18% K Ratio

    Example of Bortnick
    (11)/ (91-0-2) = 12% K Ratio

    I will give a poor performance example
    Thomas
    (20)/ (79-0-2) = 26% K Ratio

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  14. BABIP is generally ~ .300 in MLB, and is often associated with luck. But not in all cases, certain types of players, such as fast guys, often have higher babips on a consistent basis. For an ex, see Ichiro, .357 babip for his career. I'm sure there is some great article out there explaining everything there is to know about babip, what it is and is not, etc., but I don't know a link. Maybe BurGi or someone does. Actually I'll check that SaberLibrary thing Slowinski does...

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  15. Actually, just click on the link in this article to "BABIP" by Steve's name. Funny, it even mentions Ichiro, who I had to look up to verify my memory. The article names some others too and gives a nice overview. Hmmm, maybe that's why BurGi added the link in the first place :).

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  16. BABIP tells you the batting average a player has, when this player put the ball in play. For anybody wanting to know more about the stats I use, just click on the link in the glossary. Most of the links go to FanGraphs SaberLibrary as Steve Slowinsky did an excellent job describing the individual stats. Also, check out the luck dragon explaining BABIP (http://www.draysbay.com/2011/3/4/2029409/what-is-babip).
    @Anon3: I - for the other part - love BABIP as it brings another perspective on the table. While it's not THE ONLY stat suggesting a players' luck, it gives you some hints. I like your stat as well, but it simply tells something different.

    @Anon1+2: I thought about Sexton a lot but I'm reluctant to be too excited about "older" guys hitting (very) well in A+ as the jump to AA is a very big one. In addition, if the Rays thought he'd be a very good hitter, I think he'll play in AA right now. So, I'll keep following him (as I do with all the Rays MiL-players) but I won't add him just yet.

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  17. Sexton is blocked by Mayora, Wrigley ans Sweeney. How long before Lee gets moved up and Beckham moves to 2B??

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  18. I think there would be enough PA's for Sexton available:

    It's Beckham, Figueroa, Wrigley, Sweeney, Mayora, Cipriano and a bit of Vogt for 5 positions. There would have been enough possibilities for Sexton! Especially at the beginning of the season (Wrigley hurt).

    Regarding Lee: If the Rays think he can't learn anymore things in A+, he'll be moved up in about July. Otherwise he'll stay in A+ for (nearly) the whole year.

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