In 2012, Major League Baseball fans famously witnessed one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time with Mike Trout in Anaheim. And it was almost embarrassing the way we all fell for him. Quite honestly, what I saw on my tv and on my internet this year could very easily be described as a shameless world-wide man-crush pandemic.
Part of the reason we love Mike Trout so much, I have to believe, is because he represents something we rarely get to witness: The Ideal Lead-Off Hitter. He get on base, he steals bases, he hits for contact and power. A true "catalyst at the top of the order" we hear so much about in broadcasts.
It seems not too long ago, this rare combination of our favorite tools was only the stuff of fables. Especially for the kids who don't even remember Ricky Henderson let alone Willie Mays.
This of course got me to wondering, how has the lead-off position changed over the years?
Predictably, I went to the ol' reliable retrosheet files for the answer. I calculated the Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging, Walk rate, and Strike-Out Rates of every plate appearance from the lead-off position from each season. I then converted each into a "plus" statistic (that is, a scale where "100" represents league average, anything above 100 is above-average, and anything below 100 is below average) to account for the changing eras.
What I found may shock* you.
There's a lot of information packed into this chart, so I encourage you to take your time with it, examine the trends individually and then together. I'm curious to hear if the trends jive with your memories.
What most surprised me is the generally unchanging state of OBP throughout the eras. For whatever reason I was under the impression that organizations have gotten more hip to the idea of an exceptional on-base type of hitter in their lead-off slot in a post-Moneyball world, but this is apparently not at all the case.
In fact it was the 1990's that really appreciated a patient lead-off hitter. Players like Rickey Henderson, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs would regularly see OBP's greater than .400 out of the lead-off slot. Even Chuck Knoblauch, Brett Butler, and Lenny Dykstra had some exceptional on-base seasons from the 1-hole.
This trend began falling off precipitously in the 2000's, it would seem, as most of the walks were being allocated to the sluggers in the middle of the order.
Taken altogether, this is how the overall effectiveness of the lead-off hitter has evolved throughout the years according to wRC+ (does not include SB/CS):
Of course, when I was first getting into baseball at the end of the 1980's I remember thinking Vince Coleman was the ideal lead-off hitter. He didn't strike out much, he didn't have much power, but he did run the hell out of the bases. For a long time I thought that's all a lead-off hitter would do. In recent seasons it seems this sort of aggressiveness on the basepaths from the lead-off hitter has been tamed.
How does my memory compare to the data? Here is a chart detailing the averaged running habits of all players with at least 400 PA from the lead-off slot that season (though not necessarily their running habits exclusively while in the lead-off slot):
RUN% here denotes how often these players would attempt a steal compared to how often they were on base [(SB+CS)/(H+BB+HBP)]. While Success% is merely how often the players were successful in their stolen base attempts [SB/(SB+CS)].
So yes, lead-off men were certainly far more aggressive on the basepaths in the '80's than they had ever been, and that trend has been dwindling since. And while lead-off men of the '50's and '60's certainly weren't as efficient in their stolen base attempts as they are today, that trend hasn't really improved in the last 30-40 years.
Again, this is a lot of data to process-- what do you notice in these charts that maybe the rest of us haven't?
*Psych, It's not gonna shock you at all, really. Maybe just mildly amuse you at best.
Note: league-averages used did not include pitcher's at-bats and are not park-adjusted.
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Yesterday's announced signing of B.J. Upton by the Atlanta Braves should start the dominoes falling that may wind up with the Rockies trading Dexter Fowler, absurd as the team's asking price may be. With both the Braves and Phillies being in pursuit of Upton, the Phillies are now looking at their fallback options, which could include the Rockies centerfielder. The Nationals are also keen on most CF's on the market, and the NL East center-field bidding war could even be drawing in the Miami Marlins.
The Phillies, for now, emerge as the most likely destination should a Fowler trade materialize this winter. As the first link indicates, however, they seem to still be focused on free agent options instead of the trade market. The same remains true to date of the Nationals, and Fowler's wide open contract status past 2013 may make him unappealing to Miami. Fowler's age helps him compared to the rest of the available CF market, as does his switch hitting, but a lack of understanding of the effects of Coors Field on both the hitting and defensive end of things adds to his perceived risk once outside Colorado. I'm currently seeing a trade as unlikely until there's a bit more evidence that the demand will rise closer to the Rockies apparent valuation of their center fielder.
In other Fowler (the town, this time)
hot-stove.., err, used-pot-warmer-on-thrift-store-shelf news, the Rockies may be an interested party in the Luke Hochevar trade talks as the Royals seek to move the RHP before the non-tender deadline. The local Hochevar no longer has the promise he held as the #1 overall draft pick in 2006 (taken one slot ahead of Greg Reynolds, no less) but as far as low cost, high risk upside plays, the team could do much worse. Much like Ricky Nolasco, who the Rockies are also apparently interested in, Hochevar has been a much better pitcher peripherally than has translated into his actual run prevention results, with a career ERA more than a full run over his career xFIP according to FanGraphs. With 771 innings pitched over several seasons, the discrepancy may be a fixed trait of the pitcher that never "normalizes," but in the event that it does, that represents a considerable profit to be taken by whatever team acquires Hochevar for cheap right now.
In my first post, I covered my top 10 prospects and went into detail about those players that I was higher on than my TCB compatriots are. In this one, I take the Debbie Downer approach, where I detail those prospects that I am more skeptical about. No prospects were harmed in the making of this article, and I highly encourage any offended prospects to prove me wrong. I'll be as happy as anybody else and will gladly print a retraction where I mock myself for lack of faith.
I wanted to save this for last so those of you who don’t care about my ranking method could ignore it easily. See...I always your best interest in mind when crafting my articles. But to clearly describe why I have certain players dropped on my list to a level that will leave you livid, a certain understanding of my method is needed. So, to the top of the post it goes.
Step 1: Data gathering: I created my spreadsheet and added columns for position, 2012 age, 2012 farm level, draft year and round, college or high school, floor, ceiling, links, and notes. Most of that is self-explanatory. I then filled the data through liberal use of Google. I read as many online scouting reports as I could find without paying for expensive subcriptions. I read articles by other SB Nation writers, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, Fangraphs, etc etc. Then, I gathered info from statistical sites, namely Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, StatCorner, and FirstInning.
Step 2: Subjective Ranking: From the data I gathered, I created a subjective ranking from 1 to 78 based on my opinion, the opinions of other writers/scouts, and actual statistical results. While I was at it, I filled in the columns for projected floor and ceiling. Wherever possible, I used other experts’ floor/ceiling projections, but only in cases where the information was recent (2012 or late 2011). Otherwise, I used my own gut, based on the info I had.
Step 3: Calculated Ranking: Hang on, this is where it gets complicated. I’m a system-driven guy, at work and at play. I have an inherent aversion to rating or ranking things or people based on observational or subjective feeling alone. I love Consumer Reports because their data is formulaic based on real data inputs rather than on emotional whim (and they don’t take advertising). So in an attempt to take my own personal feelings a little more into the background, I created a calculation to create a second ranking.
The inputs to this calculation are:
Projected Floor Factor
Projected Ceiling Factor
The Floor and Ceiling Factors are based on the typical WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for a major league player who matches the description of the projection. For example, a typical short reliever is worth between 0-2 WAR, so I assigned a factor of 1 to the "short relief" projection for both floor and ceiling (Stay with me, here). Likewise, an MVP candidate can have a WAR between 7 and 9, so I assigned 8. This gave me a scale of value for the players based on their projections:
Few if any MLB appearances
ML 4th or 5th Starter
ML Bottom of Order Regular
ML 3rd or 4th Starter
ML Top of Order Regular
ML 1st or 2nd Starter
ML Middle of Order Regular
ML All-Star SP ("Ace")
The Age factor is a little simpler. I divided the average age for a player’s highest level in 2012 by his actual age at the beginning of the season. So Domingo Santana, who started 2012 aged 19.9 years in a league that averaged 22.4 years of age had an age factor of 1.126 (22.4÷19.9). I fudged the average age for AAA a bit because of the number of journeymen minor leaguers and rehabbing major leaguers, but other than that I gathered my age data from online sources.
The final calculated score was:
=[age factor]×(0.3×[ceiling factor]+0.5×[floor factor])
As you can see, I weighted floor more heavily than ceiling because of the smaller likelihood that a player will ever reach his ceiling. After I had scores, I sorted them largest to smallest, then created a calculated ranking based on that.
Step 4: Reconciling Rankings:
I then averaged my subjective and calculated rankings to get my final rank. To break ties, I weighted the two scales 51/49 in favor of my subjective rankings.
Jared Cosart (My Rank: 10, TCB Rank 6) - Like most people, I still think Cosart has the floor of a short reliever and the ceiling of a Top of Rotation starter. The reason he dropped on my list is because two of the pitchers immediately ahead of him on my list, Nicholas Tropeano and Lance McCullers, had conflicting rankings on my scales. Tropeano is a guy I like a lot and had him at #6 on my subjective list, but my calculation had him #11, right behind Cosart. McCullers, with his possible ceiling of "Ace", was up at #7 by my calculation, but subjectively I had him at #10 because he's so stinking young. The conflict bumped both of those guys immediately ahead of Cosart, who my calculation and I actually agreed on. The best thing here is that Cosart is incredibly young for his level, as he started 2012 at only 22.1 years of age and peaked in AAA, several years younger than the league average, and faced advanced competition. Cosart is a fantastic prospect, and deserves to be mentioned among the systems' best.
Mike Foltynewicz (My Rank: 14, TCB Rank 9) - Foltynewicz dropped on my list through no real fault of his. He has a solid argument to be in the Top 10, but my rankings had a few guys ahead of him that were all ranked higher than the TCB average, namely Bobby Borchering, Joseph Musgrove, Preston Tucker, and Ariel Ovando. For the record, my subjective rankings had him ahead of Borchering but the calculation made the difference.
Brett Phillips (My Rank: 32, TCB Rank 24) and Carlos Perez (My Rank: 23, TCB Rank 15) - I'd like a do-over on these two guys. They were left off our initial ranking list, so I didn't even research them until my entire ranking list was complete. Therefore, I did not spend as much time on them as I did on others on the list, and my subjective ranking was influenced by the calculation. I think highly of both prospects and tend to agree with the TCB ranking more than my own, particularly on Perez. Phillips is a long way away (he was only 18.1 years of age to start 2012) so there really shouldn't be a whole lot of argument with my ranking of 32. With so little data or information, it's just hard to tell.
Paul Clemens (My Rank: 29, TCB Rank 21) and Brett Oberholtzer (My Rank: 50, TCB Rank 40) - Ah the Michael Bourn trade, how we'd all like to have that one back. Last season, we all touted both of these players as among the Astros' Top 10, but now I wonder if it was not wishful thinking because we wanted to delude ourselves that the Bourn trade was not a complete disaster. In retrospect, neither of these guys were particularly exciting, though they certainly have Major League futures.
In the case of Clemens, my calculation really didn't like him because he was at the top end of his age bracket in AAA and profiles as no better than a Back of Rotation starter (with a short relief floor). Subjectively, I liked him a lot better (11 spots higher than my calc) because I feel he has a decent chance of beating his floor.
Oberholtzer is a little different story. In the podcast, somebody laughingly commented on the C- grade I assigned to him. As disgusted as I was with his 4.37 ERA / 4.12 FIP, my calc disliked him even more because his projections seem to be dropping from how we valued him immediately after the trade. Whereas last season we touted him as a middle of the rotation starter with a back of rotation floor, now he looks like a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out Relief GuY) who has a shot to be a fourth or fifth starter. He's got a low strikeout rate (13.4%) that will be even lower in the majors and his ERA/FIP performance has steadily gotten worse every season of his pro career with no real indication that it will turn around. There's no getting around it - 2012 was a huge step back for Oberholtzer.
While C- seems harsh after last season, nothing I've read about him in 2012 indicates that his statistical downturn was an anomaly. When it came down to the tiebreaker between Houser and Oberholtzer in the TCB rankings, the choice was clear to me, as I have Houser ranked sixteen spots ahead. Ask yourself to order these guys by floor/ceiling: Tropeano, McCullers, Cosart, Musgrove, Foltynewicz, Wojciechowski, West, Comer, Houser, Velasquez, Clemens, Rodgers, Owens, Oberholtzer. If you were to bet only 5 of them to even make the Astros' rotation by 2016, would Oberholtzer even be on the list? This is one ranking, though I hope he proves me wrong, that I feel pretty rock-solid on.
Rudy Owens (My Rank: 43, TCB Rank: 31), Daniel Minor (My Rank: 49, TCB Rank: 36, and Brady Rodgers (My Rank: 36, TCB Rank: 24) - In my system, Owens, Minor, and Rodgers were similar in one aspect beyond the fact that I had them ranked about 12.5 spots lower than the TCB average: All three were at or above the average age for their current level.
Minor started the season at 21.3 years of age, fully two years older than the average age of players in Rookie-level ball. Given that, it's no surprise he posted an ERA of 2.91 in 53 IP, but it is a little disapopinting that he only managed a 22.1% strikeout rate, which was just about league average. He's short for a pitcher, but not small, and the only scouting info I could find on him called him "bulldogish". He has a chance to outperform his stuff, but his major league future looks unclear to me until he starts pitching at a level closer to his age bracket. For now, it looks like he could be a bust, or he could be a 5th-starter. With so much uncertainty, I had other candidates that I wanted to rank higher.
Owens, at 24.5 years old in 2012, was one of the most aged prospects we reviewed. Appropriately, he was at Triple-A, but he was not a youngster compared to his competition. Reports I read call him a "finesse pitcher". Sadly, his results (4.35 FIP, 61 K%) were quite a bit below International League averages. He does have a low walk rate, but for me, advanced years, stuff that relies on finesse, and poor results add up to a Middle Reliever who may get some starts at the back of the rotation.
Subjectively, Rodgers made my top 30, but the calculated rank slammed him for being a full year older than his competition (22 spots lower, to be exact). Like Owens, he's a guy with advanced command and he should be quick to the majors. But he's not a power pitcher at all. He looks likely to reach his ceiling (which is why I think my subjective ranking is probably closer than the calculated one), but I believe his ceiling to be a fourth or fifth starter.
Ross Seaton (My Rank: 54, TCB Rank 31) - Look, I totally whiffed on Seaton, and it's a result of not checking my work carefully. I assigned him a "bust" floor, which is pretty clearly in error. At the least, Seaton looks like he'll be at home in a bullpen, and he could be a decent back-end starter. Fixing those values would boost him into the mid-40's, behind Rodgers but ahead of Owens and Minor.
Jonathan Villar (My Rank: 31, TCB Rank: 11) - Show of hands: How many of you skipped the rest of the mumbo-jumbo above just to read my reasoning for dropping Villar about 25 spots from his 2011 ranking? Let me say up front that I hope I am utterly and completely wrong about Villar, and that he turns into a top of the order force who hits for 20 HR and steals 50 bases while playing Gold Glove defense at shortstop. Some people think that's who Villar is, and have been vocal in their support.
My take on Villar can be summed up by one line in the Baseball Prospectus Astros Top 10 article (where Villar placed sixth):
"Some give Villar a utility future, with too many questions about the bat and overall approach to ignore."
I am one of those people. And it's not just questions about the bat, it's questions about the defense. For every article I read about Villar's defensive tools, I read another article questioning them. For every article I read about Villar's raw talent, I read an article questioning his attitude and work ethic. For every article I read about his burgeoning hitting skills, I read one about the fact that he doesn't make good contact, doesn't get on base, and strikes out a ton. The fact is, scouts can't seem to agree on Villar.
But I can give you another fun comparison, like I did with Preston Tucker.
Player A: .246/.319/.391
Player B: .263/.356/.385
Player A is Jonathan Villar's slash line at Double-A. Player B is Adam Everett's, the Astros' former no-hit shortstop. But wait, you say, Villar has more stolen bases than Everett! Yeah, well, Everett's Stolen Base success percentage was higher. The fact is, the only reason Everett was in the major leagues at all was because he was one of the best defenders at shortstop of the last two decades. Villar is not that guy. Nobody likes errors as a stat anymore, but it does allow apples to be compared to apples. Everett's AA fielding percentage was .959 in 1999. Villar's was .938 in 2012. No amount of saying "errors don't mean anything because they're dependent on range, luck, pitcher, blah, blah..." can make a .938 fielding percentage anything but abysmal. Sure, Villar is probably a better defender than he's shown, or at least he has the makings of a better defender. But here are the facts. In five seasons:
For me, and with the wealth of data (both scouting and numerical) available on Villar, he looks like a total bust. I think his speed and reputation will give him a major league career as a utility player, with perhaps a stint starting for a rebuilding team that may have traded Jed Lowrie and is waiting on Carlos Correa. But I'm not seeing the star that others are.
And I hope he proves me completely and utterly wrong.
Following is some info about how my rankings shook out:
The Miami Marlins accomplished the organization's third fire sale in team history and the second one under current owner Jeffrey Loria. The concept of the "fire sale" has actually become synonymous with the Miami Marlins name, as it is often the first thing that comes to mind when you mention the Fish to the casual baseball fan. You can guarantee a few more seasons of fire sale talk, jokes, and ridiculous Giancarlo Stanton trade proposals in the years to come as the team recovers from yet another mass exodus from Miami.
Since this is not the first go-around by the Fish, it seems natural to draw similarities between this latest fire sale and the previous ones. The one that caught my interest was the similarities and differences between this one and the 2005 fire sale that saw the Marlins break up the remainder of the 2003 World Series core. This piqued my interest because former Fish Stripes author Ehsan Kassim, now the lead blogger at Marlins Daily, brought this up in a conversation before the Marlins traded six major players from the 2012 team to the Toronto Blue Jays. Ehsan pointed out a number of similarities between the two teams, and I countered with a number of differences that I felt would prevent the Marlins from attempting another 2005-like fire sale.
Clearly, I came out wrong, but let us look back at that old fire sale and see how close this team followed that blueprint.
The Marlins kept most of their roster intact from 2003 to 2005. In fact, the team even made a major addition in free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado prior to 2005 in order to fill in a major hole in the organization after both Derrek Lee and Hee-Seop Choi were traded in the previous year. The sell-off that most casual baseball fans thought occurred "right after the Marlins won the World Series" actually occurred after the team finished a disappointing 83-79 season.
Which pieces did the Marlins send away? The following important players who were on the roster in 2005 were traded from the Fish before the 2006 season:
In addition, Guillermo Mota was added to the Boston Red Sox trade, but he was a reliever of little consequence. In 2005, the Marlins actually lost a good deal of their roster from free agency rather than trades, as the team allowed Opening Day starters Alex Gonzalez and Juan Encarnacion along with starting pitcher A.J. Burnett walk via free agency. All told, however, this Marlins iteration lost all but one starter from the Opening Day lineup, with only Miguel Cabrera remaining. The rotation lost one key member but kept the other in Cy Young runner-up Dontrelle Willis.
The package the Marlins received in return for the number of players dealt away was highlighted by top prospect Hanley Ramirez, who was ranked as the 30th-best prospect before the 2006 season but was previously rated as high as tenth in baseball. Anibal Sanchez, who came with Ramirez in the Red Sox trade, was ranked 40th in baseball before 2006 as well. However, in the trades of the other players, the Marlins did not get significant returns. Delgado netted Mike Jacobs as the major return, but Jacobs was an overachiever who, by his final season in Double-A in 2005, was simply beating up younger pitching. Pierre netted a positive asset in Ricky Nolasco, but he was never highly ranked either. Luis Castillo and Paul Lo Duca were sent off for what amounted to scraps, leaving the Red Sox trade as the primary return for the Fish.
One of the things Ehsan mentioned that had to force concerns into the minds of Marlins fans was the team-wide disappointment that both the 2005 and 2012 teams featured. Both clubs were expected to at least compete for a division or Wild Card playoff spot, and both teams fell short of expectations.
One difference was the level of disappointment between the two teams. The Marlins of 2005 were at least competitive, and they stayed within the realm of contention until about August, when the team began to fall off to the wayside. This Marlins team from 2012 did a lot worse from the get-go, putting up a disappointing April and following up a hot May with a second straight terrible June. By the end of July, the Marlins were way out of any shot at the playoffs and the team cemented that role by trading its players. The 2005 Marlins sent no one away during the season, only suspending and sending home Burnett at the end of the year after he was becoming a clubhouse nuisance.
Part of the reason why both of the teams involved were expected to do so well was due to their offseason moves, and particularly the signing of premium free agents. The Marlins took a shot in 2005 and filled in their open first base position with the power-hitting Delgado, who in response turned in a nice offensive season (.301/.399/.582, .407 wOBA) that only looked worse because his fielding at first base that year was terrible according to the defensive metrics. Given our uncertainty about those numbers, it is very possible Delgado put up at least a four-win season with below-average defense, and the team certainly reaped the benefits. The problem was that the rest of the 2005 team was not good enough to eke out the necessary wins.
The 2012 team was also given some free agent talent, but the team did a lot more before this past season by signing three players in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. Bell flopped royally, but Reyes and Buehrle performed just a bit below their projections. While that does not bode well for their future, it was good enough that the Marlins should have been happy with those investments. The problem was that the remainder of their plan failed to come to fruition.
Both the 2005 and 2012 Marlins were banking on good performances from their marquee signings. Both teams got decent performances, but in both cases, it was the remainder of the squad that failed them. The difference, and one of the reasons why I did not believe the Marlins would pull off a fire sale this offseason, was the scale and magnitude of the Marlins' moves in 2012. With three major commitments, it seemed impossible for the Fish to shed all of that salary, yet somehow this organization did it, in one trade no less.
In both cases, the team chose a player to represent the future of the organization and the guy who would carry the team into the next era of baseball. That young player was retained and the Marlins moved on with him at the helm of a crew of youngsters. In the 2005 team's case, there were two young players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Both were heading into similar years in terms of team control, and the Marlins were aware that, at some point, they would have to make a decision about either extending them or trading them for parts.
In the 2012 team's case, the similarity lies between Cabrera's situation and that of Giancarlo Stanton's. Both players are elite talents at the plate and they appear to be generational-level players who could perform for 15 years to come. In Cabrera's case, he was far more polished at the plate but was a negative in the field, while Stanton is likely slightly worse as a hitter but a far more capable outfielder. In both cases, the Marlins were left with potentially seven-win superstars around whom the team could build.
Unfortunately, their financial situations are also the same. Cabrera had four years of team control remaining by the start of 2006, and the team found that it could only afford two of those seasons. The Marlins paid $7.4 million to Cabrera in his first season of arbitration in 2007, and after that year, the team was forced to trade him while pleading poverty. Stanton is almost perfectly lined up in the exact same situation, and while Stanton never had the growing character issues that plagued Cabrera in his tenure with the Fish, Stanton also has a component of anger with the organization and the way it is being run.
With Stanton unlikely to re-sign with the Marlins for the long haul, the Marlins are likely facing the same problem they faced back in 2005: how can the team convince their elite superstar to stay or find a suitable trade partner? In 2005, the Marlins thought they had a second star in hand in Willis, but his rapid decline threw that idea out the window.
The Trades and Returns
The return the Marlins received in the midseason and offseason trades for their roster seemed fairly similar to that of the 2005 trades. Here are the players the Fish sent away who played major roles in 2012:
With the exception of Sanchez,, these players were under team control for seasons beyond 2012. There were fewer free agent departures for the Marlins in the 2012 version, as they had only one major 2012 free agent in Sanchez. The team was able to eke out as much value as possible out of the players they had on that roster to start the season. This time, two starting players from the initial Opening Day starting lineup remained, but the team made up for that by trading more pitchers in Buehrle and Sanchez in addition to the ace Johnson.
The return, again, was surprisingly similar and aimed towards depth. The Marlins traded more players in 2012, leading to a better return, but the top of the heap remains comparable. In Jacob Turner, the Marlins got the troubled top prospect that Hanley Ramirez once was. As a pitcher, the risk is higher for Turner than it was for Ramirez, but both players were highly rated before their stocks fell in their final season. The other major returns were outfielder Jake Marisnick (ranked in the top 50 in Baseball America) and Nathan Eovaldi (ranked in the top 100). The Marlins in 2005 only got two top-100 players, while this year's edition received three.
The remaining depth of the 2012 batch sounds more promising than the 2005 batch, but with minor league depth being what it is, it is impossible to begin pencillng in the remaining prospects to be important parts of a future Marlins team. Just as the last crew focused in on Ramirez and Sanchez's performances, so will this one focus on Turner, Eovaldi, and Marisnick primarily.
The Inherent Farm System
One major difference between the 2005 and 2012 editions of fire sales was what was left of the Marlins' franchise after the trades. Yes, both trades sent away the team's primary starters at most positions from the previous year, but the advantage of the 2005 team was that they had reinforcements in wait. The Marlins of that year already were prepared with three top-100 prospects who were expected to adequately fill the void left by the fire sale. Jeremy Hermida, Josh Johnson, and Scott Olsen were all highly regarded and stepped immediately into important roles in the 2006 team, and for the most part they were early successes (though that did not translate to late success for two of them).
This year's 2013 Marlins will not have such assistance. It is possible that top prospects Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez, both likely top-20 prospects in baseball this season, will tear up Double-A to stat the year and receive their promotions, but it is unlikely. No other Marlins are remotely ready for major league play among the team's homegrown group. The 2012 Fish did acquire Turner, Eovaldi, and Adeiny Hechavarria to fill major league voids in a manner similar to the 2005 Fish getting Ramirez, Sanchez, and Nolasco. But without homegrown talent to also supplement this team, it is much more likely that the 2013 Marlins will fail where the 2006 Marlins succeeded.
Indeed, this may be the critical difference between the two clubs. The returns and departures may have all been fairly similar, but the major contrast is who the Marlins have in-house to replace the empty spots left by the numerous trades. This reason is perhaps the best one for the suggestion that the Marlins are likely to easily lose 100 games. Once again, the lack of an adequate farm system will hold back the Marlins for years.
A post earlier this week looked at the total bWAR of hitters and pitchers for the top teams in theRead the Rest...
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There have been numerous rumors of the Royals discussing uber-prospect Wil Myers in trade talks for a front-line starting pitcher. Myers was the #10 prospect in all of baseball in 2011, and will surely be a top five prospect for Baseball America when their prospect list comes out later this winter.
If the Royals are gauging the market for a top ten prospect, it might be useful to look back at recent deals involving such players. Here are trades of players named top ten Baseball America prospects dealt within a year of being anointed as such.
Before Ruben Rivera was a joke for swiping his teammates' glove, and Hideki Irabu was a joke for being a "fat toad" bust, they were both highly sought after players. Rivera had been a top ten prospect three years running, but was coming off a disappointing 1996 season in AAA Columbus. He hit just .235/.324/.395 after having posted a .944 OPS across two levels in 1995. Still, scouts loved his tools, and his stock had not diminished enough to push him out of the top ten on Baseball America's list.
The Yankees coveted Japanese import Hideki Irabu, who was considered better than Hideo Nomo. The Padres won the auction for Irabu's rights, but Hideki had no desire to play in San Diego. So the Padres were able to trade his rights, along with a few other minor leaguers, for Rivera.
Rivera never produced in San Diego, and three years later they let him go. Irabu was disastrous in his rookie season, and merely servicable in his next two, never matching his hype. The Yankees banished him to baseball Siberia - Montreal.
Its hard to remember now since we've seen Konerko terrorizing Royals pitchers in Chicago black for over a decade, but Konerko had stops in Los Angeles and Cincy before coming to the South Side. Konerko absolutely destroyed the Pacific Coast League in 1997. Even with the altitude of Albuquerque, his line of .323/.407/.621 with 37 homers is mighty impressive. Dennis Reyes was no slouch either, being named the #91 prospect by Baseball America before the year.
Jeff Shaw had been picked up off the scrap heap (the Royals briefly had his rights one winter), and made the Reds closer. After leading the league in saves in 1997, the Reds cashed in their chips and luckily had a willing mark in Tommy Lasorda, who was in his brief stint as Dodgers General Manager. Lasorda anointed Shaw the "best reliever in baseball, but he would put up 3.4 WAR in three seasons combined before ending his career due to injury.
The Diamondbacks were only in their second year of existence, but thanks to a spending spree on free agents, were already in contention. However they desperately needed a closer and as we have already seen, teams will overpay for closers. The Marlins had acquired reliever Matt Mantei through the Rule 5 draft, turned him into a decent closer, then were able to get the Diamondbacks to fork over the second best pitching prospect in all of baseball for him AND kick in two other minor leaguers to boot. If only the Royals were ever in a position to cash-in a Rule 5 pick-turned-All-Star closer into top prospects.
Penny had a 4.70 ERA in AA El Paso at the time of the trade, but had terrific peripherals and was pitching in the hitter-friendly Texas League. The previous season he had posted a 2.96 ERA in High Desert, one of the toughest places to pitch. He also had some minor shoulder soreness that perhaps led Arizona to believe they could deal him. However, Mantei was never an elite closer, and he struggled to stay healthy. Penny meanwhile put up three 2 WAR seasons in five years for the Marlins before being dealt to the Dodgers.
July 5, 2002 - In a three-team trade, Oakland trades 1B Carlos Pena (BA #5 in 2002), P Jeremy Bonderman, and P Franklyn German, and acquired P Ted Lilly, P Jason Arnold, OF John Ford-Griffin and cash from the Yankees.
We all know from "Moneyball" that Billy Beane had to do this deal because Scottie J. from "Boogie Nights" wouldn't put Andy from "Parks and Rec" in the lineup. And the premise of Moneyball is that you can find cheap talent to replace the big money talent, which is why they dealt a talented rookie making the league minimum in Pena.
Not only did Beane trade away Pena, but he dealt a promising reliever in Franklyn German, and a low level player-to-be-named-later that turned out to be a pretty good pitcher in Jeremy Bonderman. What did the Moneyball guru get in return?
Jason Arnold was in his first full professional season, but was having a terrific year and was already in AA ball. A year later he would make Baseball America's Top 100 list at #96 (although it was with Toronto). John Ford-Griffin was also in his first full professional season, but had put up such great numbers in short season ball that Baseball America named him the #76 overall prospect before the 2002 season. Ted Lilly had been a Top 100 prospect a few years back with the Expos, but by 2002 he was a 26 year old member of the Yankees rotation who was putting up reasonable numbers in his first full season in the bigs. The Yankees however wanted a PROVEN VETERAN, and decided to trade Lilly and get Jeff Weaver from the Tigers in this deal (which promptly exploded in their face).
Pena put up some decent seasons in Detroit, but fell out of favor and was released in spring training of 2006. He bounced around the league for a year before landing in Tampa Bay and becoming an All-Star. Arnold and Ford-Griffin never really lived up to their prospect potential. Lilly however, turned into a serviceable mid-rotation starter, posting 3-4 WAR at his peak.
The Marlins were looking to cut costs (hard to believe, right?) and were shopping Josh Beckett around. Beckett had been a World Series hero in 2003, but had struggled to stay healthy, never making as many as 30 starts in Miami. He had a career year in 2005, winning 15 games with a 3.38 ERA and 3.3 WAR. With two years left before he hit free agency, the Marlins began to shop Beckett around.
December 8, 2005 – Atlanta trades 3B Andy Marte (BA #9 in 2005) to Boston for SS Edgar Renteria and cash
These two trades are still mystifying to me, leading me to believe that teams must have known something about Marte that led them to trade him, and perhaps that something is why Marte never panned out. Marte had long been heralded as a prospect, and in 2005 he was coming off a fine, albeit not outstanding season in AAA. Atlanta needed a shortstop and picked up the 29 year-old Renteria coming off a mediocre .276/.335/.385 season in his only year in Boston. The Red Sox also agreed to pay $8 million of the $26 million owed Renteria.
Boston was apparently just looking for salary relief as they flipped Marte just a few weeks later to Cleveland with Coco Crisp being the major return. Crisp was 26 then, coming off a career season in which he posted a 4.2 WAR season, and was entering his first season of arbitration-eligibility. Andy Marte soon disappeared from the face of the earth, while Renteria and Crisp went on to have long careers as serviceable, but not great, players.
Delmon had been a top three prospect for Baseball America since the year he was drafted with the first overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2003. He was still #3 overall before he began his rookie campaign in Tampa, and he would go on to finish second in Rookie of the Year balloting with a .288/.316/.408 season with 13 HR and 93 RBI. Nonetheless, the Rays dealt him after the year to land right-handed pitcher Matt Garza, who had been the #21 prospect by Baseball America before the 2007 season.
Garza made 15 starts for the Twins with a 3.69 ERA and 0.7 WAR in 2007 before going on to Tampa Bay and posting 7.7 WAR over the next three seasons. Young meanwhile put up two replacement-level seasons, before having a breakout season in 2010, finishing tenth in MVP balloting. However, he gave back much of his offensive value when he was asked to put a glove on, and only posted a 1.5 WAR season. Fed up with his defense, his poor plate discipline, and his attitude, the Twins dealt him to Detroit in 2011 for next to nothing.
December 4, 2007 – Detroit trades P Andrew Miller (BA #10 in 2007) , OF Cameron Maybin, P Burke Badenhop, P Eulogio de la Cruz, C Mike Rabelo and P Dallas Trahern for 1B Miguel Cabrera and P Dontrelle Willis
Miller was thought of by many as the top player in the 2006 draft, but bonus demands and health concerns scared some teams off and he fell to the Tigers. He made just thirteen starts in the minors for the Tigers before they shipped him off with a mess of players in a blockbuster deal for Miggy and D-Train.
Cabrera was a four-time All-Star and a former World Series hero who was coming off a sensational .320/.401/.565 34 HR 119 RBI season. He had two controllable years left, but the Marlins were looking to cut costs (hard to believe, right?). They packaged him with Dontrelle Willis, who was a two-time All-Star and former 22-game winner, but was coming off a disastrous season, his first sub-100 ERA+ season. He was a year away from free agency, but immediately signed a three-year extension with Detroit.
Miller would go on to post a 5.89 ERA in 58 games with the Marlins before they let him go. Miguel Cabrera recently became the first player since 1967 to hit for the Triple Crown.
Montero had been a top ten prospect for three years running, but was finding it hard to break into the Yankees lineup. New York finally dealt him for right-hander Michael Pineda, after a 2.1 WAR rookie season from the Seattle pitcher. Pineda posted a 3.74 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in Seattle, but suffered from tendonitis in spring training, then suffered an anterior labral tear, causing him to miss the entire 2012 season. He still has four controllable years left.
So what kind of talent should we expect in return for a prospect of Wil's stature? The second column shows total WAR by the prospect in pre-free agency years, just to show what those teams gave up on. The fourth column is the WAR of the player they acquired in the year prior to the trade, and the fifth column is their three-year average. What kind of player did the prospect net? Finally, the last column is the number of controllable years the player acquired had at the time of the trade, whether it was under the reserve clause or a contract. This is part of the value received in the trade.
WAR in Pre-Free Agency Years
WAR in Season Before Trade
3-Year Avg. WAR Before Trade*
Controllable Years Left
*-For the mid-season trades, I pro-rated the partial season as part of the three-year average
What kind of player can the Royals expect to headline a deal for Wil Myers? They should expect a 2-3 WAR player, that has at least three, and probably four controllable years left. Will they get this? Only time will tell.
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