Mid-Ranking Mailbag

I asked for your questions and you all delivered. so lets just jump into your questions

Draft:

Dalton: Hey Matt, any idea on the Phillies outlook will be on this years amature draft? College or high school more?

As much as it may look like it, I don’t think the 2014 draft was some change in draft philosophy for the Phillies. Pat Gillick insinuated as such saying that it was just the way the draft came to them and they took the best player available. Signing Aaron Brown, Chris Oliver, and Sam McWilliams to overslot deals in the first 10 rounds limited their options later to go overslot on high school players. I would expect 2015 to be more of a balanced draft with high school and college players.

phillysf: Who do you think the phillies should go for with their first pick?

It is still really early in the process and I haven’t looked too much and it has all been focused on the #10 overall pick. The college pitching prospects around #10 are solid, but unexciting. I like the idea of some of the high school pitchers around the pick, but before they start separating themselves, it is hard to get excited about any of them. That leaves two very interesting prospects Dansby Swanson (SS – Vanderbilt) and Alex Bregman (SS – LSU). I think Swanson goes earlier than 10 because he should be able to stick at shortstop. This leaves Bregman who is probably destined for second base, which is just fine with me. Bregman should hit and he should move quickly. If you are looking for a player to arrive as the solid double play partner of Crawford, this is the pick. He does lack the big upside you might get from one of the high school outfielders, but if I were the Phillies I would be hardpressed to pass on him.

Prospects:

SirAlden: Can you do a long form analysis of J-Roll vs. Crawford potential in all five areas? Thanks. Take your time. Best Phillies website and you did it in one month. Congratulations.

I did want to acknowledge this question because it is an interesting one. Look for a longer post on this.

Romus: Matt…what has intrigued me over the years concerning “BB” rates, is how they are a measure of the future projection of a minor leaguer in advancement.

However, the Latin American (LA) born players are typically lower then North American (NA) born players.
We know why…its ingrained in them, and as free-swingers, sayings like ‘no one walks off the island’.
Nevertheless, is there a metric or formula you can come up with that could comp LA players vs NA players BB rates and their future level of MLB success?
For example….something like a LA’s player 6% BB rate equates to the success of a NA’s BB rate of 12%?

It just seems when comparing BB rates of LA vs NA players its like apples and oranges.

I guess as a start, there is no hard and fast BB rate that makes you more or less successful going forward. The approach is what matters, you can have a high BB rate, but are so passive at the plate that you never make hard contact, at the same time you can have a low walk rate because you attack pitches in certain parts of the strikezone. As for creating a double standard of evaluation, I don’t understand it. I get the premise that LA players supposedly walk less, but in the majors a walk is worth the same regardless of nationality. A player that doesn’t walk is leaving some amount of value on the table, they are also potentially harming the rest of their ability to make good contact. I just don’t see a need to judge players on a sliding scale based on their nationality.

Andrew: 1. Who do the top-3 prospects compare to? I know this is a lazy way to view a prospect, but it helps people not intimately familiar with them.

2. Is there a chance that Franco could reach ‘star’ status with his current arm-bar swing and overly aggressive approach?

1. It is really hard to make hard comps with any of them (I also hate comps because of the differences in layers). So rather than comp them to players, let’s talk about what their numbers look like. Crawford should give you a good average, a very good OBP and hit about 15 home runs a year while stealing 20 bases, all of that with plus defense. Nola is likely to have a low walk rate and a decent strikeout rate, but potentially a higher home run rate. He should be close to a Top 30-45 pitcher. Franco is going to have a higher batting average, but little separation to his OBP, he should hit 25+ home runs, and play good enough defense for it not to destroy his value.

2. No. I do think the “arm-bar” swing was over talked about, as it is more the full swing itself that is a problem. On a normal swing, Franco draws back and then extends as he comes through the zone. This added length means he must make pitch recognition decisions very early in his swing (too early to really recognize pitches), which causes him to be in a poor position to make positive contact. This is heightened by an approach that causes him to swing at everything (partially because he can make contact with nearly everything). He is going to have to make some adjustments, the swing itself is workable as in fastball counts he goes into an abbreviated version of the swing which he uses to attach the ball, often with lots of power. If he can be there it will help his overall profile. As for the approach, he just is never going to walk at a high rate, so the key to improving the approach is not make him work deep counts, but to attack certain pitches so that he is maximizing potential contact.

ematusko: Where is Biddle’s ceiling/floor in comparison to Lively, Eflin, and Windle?

I actually think that all three pitchers have similar ceilings, though overall I would say their ceilings are probably Eflin, Windle, Biddle, Lively. When it comes to floor I would say the order is more Eflin, Lively, Biddle, Windle. Eflin is easily the best of the group, but that does not mean he is far above the group. Windle has the potential for a plus fastball and plus slider, but delivery questions make it more likely that he ends up in the bullpen. Lively lacks the potential of any carrying plus pitches (overall his arsenal looks similar to Biddle on a pitch by pitch basis), but he has shown good control, and there is good deception in his delivery. Biddle doesn’t have any overpowering pitches either, but his left handedness gives him an edge over Lively. I do worry about whether Biddle can put it all together in a way that is more than a #5 starter, but I think when healthy, he has proven he can be close to that on the major league level right now.

I am going to go with Yoel Mecias and Zach Eflin.  I will preface this with the acknowledgement that I am a sucker for a changeup and that at #4 and #5 in the system for me.  I think both have a lot of room for growth in terms of both of their ultimate upside and their proximity a year from now.  Of the two I think Mecias has the most upside.  His stuff is still coming back from Tommy John surgery, but he spent some time in Clearwater this offseason working on putting on weight.  If Mecias’s fastball can get to plus and the changeup feel returns, he has a very high upside.  Eflin on the other hand is mostly filled out, but he has flashed some higher velocity.  The biggest point of growth is whether he can improve his slider and then improve his strikeout rate, while maintaining his ground ball rate.  If you want someone to really jump, Franklyn Kilome and Jason Zgardowski give projectable frames to go with now stuff (Kilome it is more the movement and Zgardowski it is the velocity already at 96).  Both are guys that could see big jumps if their velocity jumps and they see some growth in their secondaries.

My stock answer here is that there are no pitchers in the farm system that have that kind of upside, and that pitchers with that kind of upside are extremely rare and you could count them on two hands, but that isn’t fun. So in that case let’s look at this from a super optimistic point of view and talk about two Latin American pitchers, Yoel Mecias and Franklyn Kilome. Mecias was my #4 prospect this offseason, and right now his stuff has not yet returned from Tommy John surgery. The first thing that needs to happen is that Mecias needs to fill out his frame to have his fastball to be 92-95 touching a bit higher. Mecias his normally 89-92, but has reached 95 in short stints. If Mecias can do that and recapture his former changeup, he has a very high ceiling.

There has been much written about Kilome this offseason, as the lanky righty emerged onto national lists. At this point we can say Kilome has immense upside because he is a blank canvas that’s only two discernable skills are that he has feel for pitching and he can pound the bottom of the strikezone and induce high ground ball rates. He has reached 94 with his fastball, and he shows a decent curveball and changeup. Kilome is eons away, but if he can start adding on to the solid base, he could be very special. I grade both pitchers out as #2/#3 starters as a more reasonable ceiling. Don’t worry too much about the lack of ceiling, it is rare, the Phillies do have some guys who can fall into the group below if things go right for them.

Slim:Sounds like you have some questions about Odubel Herrera’s hit tool beside the lack of power … can you say more? Looking at his 2014 and winter league stats (where he even showed some power), we wanna think we found a diamond in the rough.

It is less about the hit tool itself (I think he will make contact), but I wonder about the utility of the hit tool given his power. In 2014 over 125 games he had less XBHs than Carlos Tocci did over the same number of games (26 to 28). He is not a burner so he can’t rely on speed for extra value. Overall if you take away the SSS in the VWL, there are a lot of questions about his profile.

Because he lacks standout tools and is never healthy for a full year. It really is that simple. I am a big Dugan fan because I believe in the hit tool, but I understand it if you don’t. Overall, I remain mystified by the lack of love for Dugan from national sources (outside of BP).

I touched on the pitchers already, but quickly I think Eflin is easily the best chance to stick, and he would need to really regress to not make it. After that, I think Lively can stick as a #5 starter as a floor, but he also has enough bullpen upside that he could reach the point where his ceiling is higher in the bullpen with the other options around. Windle is the least likely, and there are a lot of worries with the changeup and delivery, and I personally think he is the most likely of the Phillies top pitching prospects to find his final home in the bullpen.

 I think it will be a poor rebuild if this is current best group, but let’s look a year from now. Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco have likely already graduated and that leaves the top of the system as Crawford, a year older and 1-2 levels higher, and the #10 overall pick. However, the Phillies have amassed enough depth that even if no one pops up, they could have a very deep upper minors. But I think you could see guys like Zach Eflin, Yoel Mecias, Franklyn Kilome, Roman Quinn, and others make the jump towards the Top 100. Add that to a potential Cole Hamels package and you have a potentially studly group. From that point I think there is a good chance it goes downhill unless they absolutely nail the next two drafts, because they will graduate Crawford. If we are talking young players (25 and under) this group is going to be worse than the next 3-4 years at very least.

International:

Eddie: Who are some international players we should be keeping an eye on? Is this offseason the climax of the Cuban invasion or is just beginning? If the Phils aren’t going to go all-in on Yoan Moncada as our baseball savior, as it appears they aren’t, can I at least dream on the Shohei Otani posting in 2021? (Kidding … kind of)

There are still some good players in Cuba, but Moncada is probably the best guy coming over.  I do think as it opens up we are going to see more young guys (19-20) over finished products like Tomas or Castillo.  This means continued big money, but a lot more risk.  I do think they are out on Moncada based on the money, although they like the player.  I do wonder if they would have been in on Kenta Maeda had he been posted.  But it is hard to know how aggressive they will be in on the big money signings.  It really is up to ownership at this point.

I think they are a tier below the teams that go out and bust slot every year (Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cubs). They have started to really spend in the market as evidenced by the money spent on guys like Gamboa and Encarnacion. Where the Phillies really shine is going off the board. They have always spread their money around, but over the past two years they have really excelled at it. On the pitching side alone they have been finding hidden gems of all shapes and sizes. I think they have one of the best sets of international scouts in the game, but they need to continue to give them money to work with. 

Trades:

chris: A healthy Cliff Lee nets us what in return?

This is a tough question because of the albatross that is Lee’s option or buyout. In general if Lee pitches well enough to vest the option (200 IP in 2015) he will be worth it, but $27M salary is going t make many teams pause. If the option doesn’t vest, there is a $10M buyout that presumably the Phillies would cover. So let’s assume the Phillies cover a significant portion of Lee’s remaining money to get a good return. My expectation would be a prospect in the 50-100 range, a good non-Top 100 prospect, and then some sort of lottery ticket. For example I would expect a team with the Phillies farm to give up a package along the lines of Franco, Quinn, and Kilome or something like that. It’s probably less than they would have gotten a few years ago if they had given up a significant amount of money, but we don’t know how much ownership was willing to pay.

I think I would do that deal depending on the money involved. I think there are so real weaknesses with all three prospect, but I think it is a lot of value involved. I believe in Hedges having a good future even if the bat is limited. Renfroe is interesting to me, but I think his upside is a bit limited because of his flaws, but he should be a solid outfielder. Wisler is the intriguing guy to me. He fell out of Keith Law’s Top 100 because he saw him more towards a #4, but the previous stuff and reports from other sources indicate a player who could be a #2 starter. I think there might be some better packages out there, but I think I would do the deal if the Phillies aren’t giving a lot of money.

Miscellaneous:

I think the Phillies are the favorite for the 2016 1st overall pick, but I wouldn’t say it is a better than 25% chance they get there. I think there is a less than 1% chance that Moncada comes to Philly, there is enough evidence that they like him, but aren’t in love enough to spend with the big boys. I think there is a 75% chance that Hamels is move by August, someone is going to blink on this. I think there is a better than 80% chance that Dugan debuts at some point this year, the only hesitancy is injury, which is not a small factor for Dugan.

Eddie: I realize this might be dicey question since you may know some people personally, but do you have any thoughts on which of the many annual prospect books you’d recommend? Failing a recommendation, could you offer a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses?

It really depends on what you are looking for from a book. I can only speak to the BA Prospect Handbook and the BP Annual. I really like the BA Handbook, its reports are not going to be cutting edge, but it is an amazing resource to have with you. The rankings in any book is going to be outdated, so the key is to get something that provides you with the best reference source. If you want something that is more majors and minors, I would go with the BP Annual. The essays and write-ups are phenomenal, and the PECOTA projections are always fun. I am sure the other books are also well written, but I have not bought any of them so I cannot speak to specifics. It is all about what you want.

I love imperial stouts and high alcohol beers with complex flavors.  Here is a rough top 10.  I will not that I have excluded specials such as those aged in oak or bourbon.

  1. Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout – North Coast Brewing Company
  2. Blackout Stout – Great Lakes Brewing Company
  3. Bourbon County Brand Stout – Goose Island
  4. Yeti – Great Divide
  5. Three Philosophers – Brewery Ommegang
  6. Golden Monkey – Victory Brewing Company
  7. Tripel Horse – River Horse Brewing Company
  8. Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Head
  9. Teddy Bear Kisses – Upland Brewing Company
  10. Molotov Cocktail – Evil Twin Brewery

Other beers that are very drinkable or have special sentimental value:

  • Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour
  • Unshadowed – Ale Asylum
  • Edmund Fitzgerald – Great Lakes Brewing Company
  • Champagne Velvet – Upland Brewing Company
  • Black Knight (Black IPA) – Little Free Brewery (Our homebrew)

I will say that I greatly enjoy beer and home brewing and that there is no such thing as a bad beer style, but there are bad beers.  Some beers have their place in life, there are few things better than a PBR beer back to a Bloody Mary at brunch in Madison.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

5 comments

  1. Andrew

    Awesome.

  2. phillysf

    mmmm bloody mary, thanks again Matt for the great feedback

  3. phillysf

    wait , I just looked at your beer list again and see no mention of Pliny. What gives ?

    • Matt Winkelman

      Haven’t had it. I just have been unable to find it out here.

  4. phillysf

    well if your on the west coast the north part anyway within the next two weeks you can probably find some, hecka hoppy goodness if you are into that type of sheet