Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weekly MiL – Breakdown: The Hitting Prospects

The last MiL-Breakdown was more than a week ago. Thus, it’s time to look at the Rays top hitting prospects again. This time I’m also including some progress charts in order to visualize the advancements of the prospects during the season.

This time I’ve added Stephen Vogt and his .950 OPS. Others on the hitting watch list who I’ve not added yet are for example John Matulia (I want him to reach 100 PA’s first), Phil Wunderlich or Robbie Price.

Hitting prospects stats overview

The top 15 hitting prospects pre season keep on impressing. Since the last hitting prospect breakdown they combined for a stat line of .302 - .372 - .817, good for a .368 wOBA in 621 PA’s.

(Click at the image for a larger view)

Looking at the wOBA changes of the top 15 hitting prospects (see the graph below), we can see that the variation decreases significantly and that most of the prospects are hitting clearly above average (~ .330). Only Robinson Chirinos is clearly below average. While Luke Bailey cooled off after a hot start, Todd Glaesmann overtook him according to wOBA after a very cold start.

(Click at the image for a larger view)

3 prospects on the rise
  • 1) Desmond Jennings … He is so ready to move up to the bigs, I can’t even tell. Make place for him up there! There have to be enough PA’s for him when Sam Fuld (don’t get me wrong, I like him) hits leadoff! Jennings has a .944 OPS over his last 83 PA’s. His approach is very good and he even shows some power. He is ready.
  • 2) Tim Beckham … His plate approach is steadily improving. He hits for an average of .306. He seems to finally put it together. Let’s hope it lasts for a longer period.
  • 3) Todd Glaesmann … He and Cody Rogers broke out of their early season slump. Glaesmann shows power (3 HRs, 8 extra-base hits in the last 73 PA’s) and hittability (.309 AVG in last 73 PA’s) while striking out like hell (25 K’s in 73 PA’s!!!). The tools are there, but the K’s are really scary!
3 prospects falling
  • 1) Robinson Chirinos … You can’t just speak of a slow start with 110 PA’s. He doesn’t show a lot and looks to be far behind Jose Lobaton (and maybe Nevin Ashley).
  • 2) Henry Wrigley and Matt Sweeney … That’s not enough for a power position. Sweeney simply does not seem to be able to put it together. He hits just .15. Wrigley cooled off considerably (.554 OPS in 74 PA’s) since his hot start and has a K:BB ratio of more than 7 (22K:3BB).
  • 3) Ty Morrison … Still nothing new about his injury. I really had him as a breakout player this year, but he can’t break out when not on the field. This is me hoping for an early return.
The prospect of the week: Tim Beckham
  • How acquired? 1st round (1st overall) in 2008 MLB Amateur Draft
  • Born: 01/17/90 (in Griffin, GA)
  • Position: SS
  • B/T: R/R
  • '11 MiL team: Montgomery Biscuits (AA)
I’ve always been a supporter of Tim Beckham. Back when the Rays drafted him 1st overall I was jumping into the air. And while posting above league average numbers over the last 2 seasons while being one of the youngest players each of these years isn’t that bad, lots of prospect evaluators already call him a bust. The success of Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, Brian Matusz and especially Buster Posey surely didn’t help him. But, come on, he isn’t a bust. While I’m not saying that he was the right selection in retrospective (imagine the Rays with Buster Posey behind the plate or Eric Hosmer at 1B) I still see him becoming a very useful major leaguer … and his latest results underline this suggestion.

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

“Stats aren't the best way to go about judging pure tools, of course. But then there are reports like one scout told Matt Eddy of BA: "If he wasn't a $6 million man, he wouldn't have stood out." That report is far from an outlier. Even assuming that his tools are still there, the stats tell me that he isn't turning them into production. But there is stuff to like. For one, he played all last season at 20 years old, which is young for the Florida State League. He made a big stride forward in plate discipline, nearly doubling his walk rate. And his makeup is by all indications seems to be a plus. He's all the things you want him to be: great teammate, coachable, and a hard worker. It's hard to see Beckham living up to the standard #1 pick potential. But that doesn't make him a bust. His 2011 will answer a lot of questions. Were his gains in plate discipline for real? Will he be able to cut down on the strikeouts and improve his batting average? Can he show more ingame power? And of course, how's his defense?”

Before going into more detail about his tools I’ll try to answer the questions Kevin asked:
  • Were his gains in plate discipline for real? So far he K’s 4% less than last year while walking nearly as much (1% less). I’m okay with his plate discipline while it’s not nearly as Desmond Jennings’ or even Tyler Bortnicks’. But, he is making progress (even in season). Check out the table below.
  • Will he be able to cut down on the strikeouts and improve his batting average? He cut down on his strikeouts and increased his AVG from .258 last season to .306 this season. That’s a great achievement for a 21 year old in AA.
  • Can he show more in-game power? His ISO didn’t increase over last year (from .103 to .106) and 2 HR’s are not that many to show off so far. Nevertheless, I’m not concerned about the power just yet. He first has to fix his approach before putting his power potential into play.
  • And of course, how is his defense? Defensive metrics for minor leaguers are hard to come by, but some more general stats show some progress. He produces less errors (5 in 38 games; last year: 25 in 121 games; 2009: 43 in 117 games), increases his Fld% (.969 now; .949 in ’10; .919 in ’09) and has a higher range factor per game than last year (4.08 now; 3.83 in ’09; 4.17 in ’08). But … in order to evaluate his defense I’ve to rely on reports of people who have seen him play in person.
Overall, that’s significant progress. And, looking back at the consensus evaluation of Beckham when he was drafted, I still think he can be on his way to fulfill most of the projections of his tools.

“A bonafide five-tool player at a premium position, there's a reason why Beckham is at or near the top of Draft lists everywhere. He's got tools galore, with some idea of how to use them. He'll need to iron out some things mechanically and fundamentally, but he's got the ability and potential to hit, hit for power, steal bases and stay at shortstop at the big-league level.“

Especially his hit tool seems to be more than fine to me. His mechanics and fundamentals get better by the day as the progress over the last seasons and also in-season (look at the table below) show.

(Click at the image for a larger view)

His makeup and work ethic have always been highly regarded and that’s the main reason I think he’ll be fine in the long run. He still has to show some power but as I explained before, I’m not concerned about that just yet. His speed is okay while he has to become more successful at the base paths. The biggest question mark, though, is his ability to stay at short. He seems to be making progress on the defensive side and as e.g. Reid Brignac showed, especially the defense at short can improve dramatically with more experience. Overall he should hit for some average, have an okay while not plus approach at the plate. If he can stay at short, that is something very useful. If he has to move off (most likely) he needs some power to develop into an above average major leaguer.


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:


  1. Love the new 2nd chart with wOBA! Morrison is out with a shoulder injury (unless I'm confusing him with someone else? don't think so).

    You know who we really should be watching more closely? Cole Figueroa, 2B at Montgomery. He's only 3 days older than Tyler Bortnick, both play 2B but can handle SS if necessary. Both are top of the order guys (leadoff or 2nd). Both have more walks than strikeouts on the season (Figueroa does for his entire milb career). Both have career BA's over .290 and OBP over .390. Bortnick has shown better power over his career (even though down a little this year) and more SBs.

    Figueroa average is down some this year, and he hasn't show the power and steals over his career, but he is playing a level higher than Bortnick. Anyway, thought I'd point him out, someone worth watching.

  2. FYI, Burgi. According to BA, Beckham will stay at SS due to better athleticism this year.

  3. Thx Doug and Michael,

    I watch Cole Figueroa very closely. He was a nice pickup in the Bartlett trade. He could see him develop into a very useful role player. Maybe like Elliot Johnson right now or even more.

  4. Nice to see someone is paying attention ... Wrigley has plateaued (he cratered in AZ last Fall), and Sweeney is a "never was" -- .203 BA and 13 HRs in 418 ABs since coming to the Rays org. Yaawwwnnnn ...

  5. Since when is 20 rbi in the AZ league bad. He did just have a rough 3 weeks but is coming out of it

  6. How did I know this would turn to Wrigley? Seriously though, how much longer are they going to keep giving regular ABs to Sweeney, Fronk and Wrigley (and Shelby)? I don't mean bench/cut all 3 (4), but stop starting 3 of the 4 or all 4 each night.

    If Velasquez ever comes back that should be the end of Shelby, one way or the other.

    Sweeney is and has been the worst, but he's also the youngest. Fronk takes a lot of walks, but that's about it. Wrigley is the best of the 3 and the most versital.

    So keep Wrigley in the regular lineup and either give more ABs to Kang in LF or call up Nommensen, or both. Move Wrigley around 3B/1B/LF/DH, make sure Vogt is in at DH/LF/C, let Kang get more time between LF/DH, and see what Nommensen can do at AA (OF/DH/1B?).

    Anyone opposed to that?


  8. Promoting Gregory Sexton to AA seems to be a good idea at this point!

  9. Where's the LIKE button? I agree wth everything you said, Doug. Time for Sexton to be promoted to AA, etc......

  10. For what it's worth, Sexton was sent down and Sweeney promoted last year after Greg had played 33 games. Sweeney has played 33 games this year. Let's hope there's some equal justice in this world. PROMOTE GREG SEXTON NOW!!!!

  11. Do TB "Brass" read these comments?

  12. Who knows, but the Montgomery lineup tonight is w/o Sweeney, and 7/8/9 is Wrigley/Fronk/Shelby. Also, Nommensen batting 3rd for Charlotte tonight, higher than he normally does.

    Moving Sexton up and Sweeney down could be good: reward Sexton and let Sweeney faced a little easier pitching to help his confidence. Nothing wrong with either. But then at Montgomery if Sexton takes over 3B where does Mayora go? He's having a great year and is younger than Sexton. I guess he could go up to Durham and F. Lopez could stop batting cleanup. And you would need to replace Sexton in Charlotte, if Julio Cedeno was ready he could replace him, or promote the incredibly hot Robby Price from BG (check milb for his last 10 games). But Price is already playing out of position at 3B in BG, should be a 2B longterm. And if you promote Price then you need a 3B in BG...

    Every move has ramifications. I would just like to see a little more movement, promoting/rewarding players who are doing well in-season. But I'm not holding my breath.

  13. Doug - This may be picking nits, but Nommensen has been a fixture in the 3 hole most of the year. Yeah, he did slide to fifth in the order for a couple of games earlier this month, so I would characterize the move more as "moving back" rather than "moving up". Otherwise, I agree with your comments in this thread wholeheartedly.

  14. That's ok, I thought he had been hitting 5th longer than a couple of games. The real question in Charlotte is how much longer can a team that's 15-27 keep running out Leary and Liberatore (or whoever they use next time around) as 40% of the rotation?

    Liberatore was a spot start, which happens, and the first of his career. He wasn't bad, but you need more than 4 innings to keep the pen fresh for regular use and Leary's implosions. Today is Leary's 4th time around, and he hasn't made it past 4.2 innings yet.

    Hope to see a promotion or someone off the DL to help soon, Charlotte fans deserve better than this.