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September 25, 2012

Overthinking It

The 2012 All-Fringe-Prospect Team

by Ben Lindbergh

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It used to be that BP based its prospect lists largely on statistical performance. Sometimes this approach served us well, when the numbers picked up on something scouts overlooked. Other times—probably most times—we were the ones missing out. Never were the advantages and disadvantages of the stathead approach to prospect rankings made more clear than on our 2005 Top-50 list, when we placed Dustin Pedroia and Mitch Einertson in a 49th-place tie. Baseball America didn’t put Pedroia in its top 100 that year, and he went on to win an MVP award, so score one for us. Baseball America never put Einertson in its top 100, and he followed up the small-sample .303/.406/.688 2004 season that got us all excited by not making the majors, so score one for the scouts. So far, anyway. Einertson is only 26 and still playing in the American Association, so there’s still hope.

These days, of course, we take both stats and scouting into account. While we still make mistakes, we have a better process in place. However, that process can be disappointing. Sometimes, our inner numbers nerds start dreaming on a stat line, only to have our hopes crushed when we find out our new favorite prospect is a poseur who won’t be able to miss bats at the major-league level or hit a big-league breaking ball. This article is a position-by-position tribute to the fringy prospects who wouldn’t be able to back up the eye-catching stats on the back of their baseball cards, if they were good enough to have baseball cards.

A few ground rules:

  • The player has to have played in a full-season league (Class A and above). Short-season stats are strange.
  • The player has to be under 30. I don’t have to tell you that a 30-year-old minor leaguer is either A) on a rehab assignment or B) not a prospect. Sure, 34-year-old Mike Hessman hit a career-high 35 homers, bringing his minor-league total to 370, but no one would confuse him with a prospect at this point.
  • The player has to be rookie eligible. For the most part, anyone whose rookie eligibility is up has already had his chance and blown it. Nobody cares what Jeff Clement hit in Indianapolis this season, except for Bill Bavasi, who’s still hoping that third-overall pick pans out.

Most of these players have already spent some time in the majors or will make the majors eventually, which means they’re more talented than the vast majority of minor leaguers. But contrary to what their 2012 stats might suggest, they likely won’t last long or amount to much.

Tim Federowicz, Dodgers
What he did: Federowicz, who went to the Dodgers with Stephen Fife in the Trayvon Robinson trade at the 2011 deadline, hit .294/.371/.461 in 475 plate appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque. He threw out 39 percent of attempted basestealers. He earned a call-up to Los Angeles at the start of September and has received a whopping one plate appearance since. Apparently there’s a pennant race on.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: The first prospect on the list might be the best one—as a former seventh-round pick, he’s practically a blue-chipper compared to some of the players to come. It’s hard to find a catcher who can hit at all and doesn’t have at least a little promise, so we’ll have to settle for a slightly superior player here. However, while Federowicz might be a big leaguer, he’s not nearly as good as his superficial stats. Catchers take time to develop, but at 25, he’s not ahead of the curve. More disturbingly, his numbers were dramatically inflated by the offensive environment at Albuquerque. On the road, Federowicz hit .245/.331/.370. He also did most of his damage against lefties, though he hadn’t shown as severe a platoon split in previous seasons. Federowicz’s raw stats might suggest a starter, but he profiles best as a part-timer who gets some starts against southpaws.

First Base
Darin Ruf, Phillies
What he did: You’ve probably already read about Ruf, the first baseman for Double-A Reading who led the minor leagues with 38 home runs. Ruf hit .317/.408/.620 in 584 plate appearances, striking out a respectable 102 times. The right-handed Ruf murdered opposite-handed pitching, slugging .845 against southpaws before getting a cup of coffee with the big club in September.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: The former 20th-round pick turned 26 years old this season, which he started with only 25 career home runs. His position is listed as “Pinch Hitter” at Baseball-Reference, and there’s a good reason for that: he’s barely passable defensively either at first or the outfield corners. His relative weakness against righties and tendency to go after bad balls should make him an easy target in the majors. That the Phillies have given Ruf only three plate appearances after the minor-league season he had tells you most of what you need to know. That the minor-league home run leaders in three of the past four seasons were Bryan LaHair, Jon Gaston, and Dallas McPherson, respectively, tells you the rest.

Second Base
Jake Elmore, Diamondbacks
What he did: Elmore, who entered the season as a career .273/.370/.364 hitter in four minor-league seasons, exploded to post a .344/.442/.465 slash line at Triple-A Reno, good for the seventh-highest batting average and third-highest on-base percentage among qualifying full-season players. He walked 20 more times than he struck out, stole 32 bases in 40 attempts, and earned an August call-up to Arizona, where he filled in at short before and after the departure of Stephen Drew.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Elmore’s skillset suits a former 34th-round selection; as one scouting executive told me, “Elmore doesn’t have tools.” None of Elmore’s abilities grades out as average, and his stolen bases stemmed from instincts, not speed. He benefited from both the inflated offensive environment of the PCL—as a group (including pitchers), the Aces hit .297/.363/.448—and a fluky .386 BABIP, which was well above his career rate. Although he put the ball in play, he homered only once in 511 PA, an impressive display of non-power for a player who played half his games at Aces Ballpark. Elmore appeared at five positions, but he’s not a natural at any of them. True to form, he struck out just four times in 60 plate appearances with the D-Backs, but he managed only a .197 TAv. He’s a back-of-the-bench guy at best.

Kevin Nolan, Blue Jays
What he did: Nolan hit .316/.384/.471 in 349 plate appearances for High-A Dunedin, impressive offensive statistics for a shortstop. It’s difficult to find numbers like that anywhere in the minors for a player at his position.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Nolan was the top shortstop in the Florida State League, but that’s just it—he was in the Florida State League. Nolan will turn 25 in December, and he was repeating the level. That means he’s already behind the developmental curve, and his progress was slowed even further by a hamstring injury that cost him most of the second half of the season. He’s decent defensively and, unlike many minor-league shortstops, can probably stick at the position, but at this point, even a utility role might be beyond him. He could be a career minor leaguer.

Third Base
Adam Duvall, Giants
What he did: Duvall hit 30 homers, tying for fourth among qualifying full-season players. The former 11th-rounder spent most of the season at age 23 and was taking his first crack at the Cal League, so his performance comes with fewer age and experience caveats than most of the fringe prospects on this list.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Darin Ruf, Wil Myers, Mike Hessman, and Adam Duvall: one of these players at the top of the minor-league home run leaderboard is not like the others.* Duval’s power is his only true tool. He has an average arm and average hands, but poor range makes him a below-average defender at third and second. Approach issues hurt his hit tool, and he hit just .249/.312/.461 against righties. He could be a one-dimensional bench bat until he’s displaced by a two-dimensional bench bat.

*(It’s Myers!)

Left Field
Andrew Brown, Rockies
What he did: Hit .308/.364/.597 with 24 home runs in 438 Triple-A plate appearances and has gone deep at least 20 times in three straight minor-league seasons.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: He turned 28 earlier this month, he was repeating Triple-A, and he was playing in Colorado Springs. On the road, he hit .228/.301/.471. Need more reasons? He’s a former 18th-rounder, he’s not a good defender, and he has a long swing that doesn’t serve him well against quality breaking stuff. (I could keep going.) Brown has hit .222/.286/.407 in 91 plate appearances for the Rockies this season, which sounds about right.

Center Field
Corey Brown, Nationals
What he did: Few minor-league center fielders hit better than Brown, who mustered a .285/.365/.523 line with 25 home runs in 554 plate appearances for Triple-A Syracuse. The left-handed hitter holds the distinction of being the lone first-round pick on this list (supplemental round, but still).
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Brown was repeating the level, and he’ll turn 27 just after Thanksgiving. He also struck out 139 times, which doesn’t bode well for his batting average. Brown can play center, so he could get a job as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but that’s as high as his upside goes. Jason Parks labeled him “a poor man’s Drew Stubbs.” The real Stubbs has a career .251 TAv, so a poor man’s version of him isn’t worth regular playing time. In 28 major-league plate appearances over the past two seasons, Brown has struck out 10 times without a walk.

Right Field
Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers
What he did: Van Slyke mashed in Triple-A, hitting .327/.404/.578 with 18 homers on the heels of a .348/.427/.595 campaign in the Southern League last season.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Here’s a familiar refrain: Van Slyke is a former 14th-round pick who turned 26 in July and played for Albuquerque. His bat held up better than Federowicz’s did on the road, but he hit just .167/.196/.315 in 57 plate appearances for the Dodgers. He’s not fast or athletic enough to play center, and while he has some legitimate power, he probably can’t catch up to big-league fastballs consistently enough to start in a corner. His future, if he has one, is as a fourth outfielder.

Starting Pitcher
Drew Granier, Athletics
What he did: Granier finished fifth among full-season starters in strikeouts, fanning 167 in 162 2/3 innings in the Midwest League. He cut his walk rate from 5.1 per nine innings to 2.9 in his sophomore season, and he’s allowed only half a home run per nine innings as a professional.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Pitching stats can be extremely deceptive: a pitcher who can throw strikes and disguise a changeup can succeed in A-ball, but his repertoire won’t work in the upper levels. The first clue that the 23-year-old Granier might be something less than he seems is his draft position: the right-hander was selected in the 32nd round in 2011. The second is his stuff: one scouting executive summarized his arsenal as, “89-90, curve, slider, change. Throws everything for strikes, no out pitch.” The verdict? “Probably an org arm.” Another source said his ceiling was middle relief. Now you’re not excited.

Relief Pitcher
Danny Barnes, Blue Jays
What he did: Barnes led the full-season leagues in saves, nailing down 34 in 36 opportunities. In 51 1/3 innings for Dunedin, he struck out 63 and walked 16, good for your average 1.40 ERA.
Why what he did doesn’t matter: Barnes was drafted in the 35th round. A scouting exec says he has average velo and an average slider. Average control and command of average stuff made him a dominant force in the Florida State League, but it won’t work so well as he climbs the ladder. A report Jason has on him from this season says he sat 89-92 and touched 94 a few times: that plus a fringy slider and good control could get him to the majors, but only in middle relief.

Thanks to Jason Parks for research assistance.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues,  Stats,  Minor Leaguers

37 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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I think it is badly mistaken to consider the fact that a player was drafted in the XXth round, where XX is a number much greater than 1, as an indication that "what he did doesn't matter." Scouts miss guys, or misjudge what they see, sometimes. One need look no further than the 402nd selection in the 1999 draft for evidence of that. (We all know what that was, don't we?) Draftees as late as the 48th round (Angels catcher Bobby Wilson) are currently playing in the Show, and quite a few guys from the lower rounds are actually proving useful to their teams. St. Louis currently has no fewer than seven guys (Jason Motte, Jaime Garcia, Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Sam Freeman, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter) on their roster who were drafted in the 10th round or later, and all of those no-chance guys sure aren't hurting their playoff aspirations any. Turning up one's nose at a prospect just because he was drafted in a late round seems rather silly to me. (Or did you intend that sarcastically? If so, it doesn't come across in the writing.)

Sep 25, 2012 07:28 AM
rating: 2
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I didn't put anyone on the list because of his draft round--they're all on there because of their abilities. But I definitely don't think it's a mistake to consider draft round. It's a data point. Nate used to include draft round as a PECOTA input, because it tells us something. Sure, there are exceptions, and scouts miss sometimes, but on the whole, not a lot of pitchers with great stuff fall to the 35th round. Piazza is the outlier to end all outliers, so I'm not sure how helpful citing him is. And some of the other guys you cite are about as fringy as major leaguers come, so I don't think they really disprove the idea that draft round can be instructive. I'm turning up my nose at these particular prospects because of what they've done since getting drafted, but I don't think it's unreasonable to say that their draft position was a warning.

Sep 25, 2012 07:44 AM

And Jason Motte is a convert. He was a catcher before moving to pitching so that speaks more to the Cardinals ability to develop a player irrespective of draft position. I think most teams (all else equal including perceived ability at each) would attempt to make a prospect a position player rather than a pitcher.

Sep 25, 2012 10:20 AM
rating: 1

RE: but on the whole, not a lot of pitchers with great stuff fall to the 35th round

It looks like one fell to the 48th round in C.J. Edwards.

Sep 25, 2012 12:34 PM
rating: 1

Actually, there is a 50th rounder playing in the majors right now: Jarrod Dyson.

Sep 25, 2012 07:59 AM
rating: 0

Nice piece Ben. These types of players often fall through the cracks (or in the case of many of them have just now bubbled up through the cracks).

I've always wondered when teams "give up" on players. That is, when does a player like Tim Federowicz become an "org" guy and no longer a prospect. I'm sure there's no hard and fast rule about it, but at some point an organization feels a player's development has slowed or he has regressed.

I assume the rest of these players where likely drafted as org guys, but now are making a case to contribute at the major league level.

Sep 25, 2012 07:32 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Right, given their draft rounds, it wasn't as if most of these guys were expected to pan out, or as if their organizations are fooled by their performance. They're just guys who might fool a casual observer who came across their stats.

Sep 25, 2012 07:46 AM

I think you're wrong about Ruf. He was by far the best hitter in the Eastern League. I don't know where you got the idea he chases a lot of bad pitches, but I've read otherwise. I have seen his three PAs so far for the Phillies and he's clearly not overmatched. He's made solid contact and his prodigious power is obvious. The fact that he's 26 means mainly that he's unlikely to have a long career in the spotlight. The Phillies have lots of openings in the OF and this is the organization that has played Luzinski and Ibanez in his late 30s in LF. He's earned a chance to show what he can do in the show. He's starting tonight. We'll see.

Sep 25, 2012 15:25 PM
rating: 0

I can't see him being traded to Houston any time soon if this is anything to go by. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18152

Pretty sure that Jason has also agreed with Kevin's take on Ruf.

Sep 25, 2012 15:41 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I'm skeptical that three plate appearances is enough to make any meaningful conclusion about Ruf, especially if you're not a trained scout (and no, I'm not one myself). I don't think you can dismiss the fact that he's 26, and that the Phillies waited as long as they did to give him a shot: as Kevin wrote in the Ten Pack Behemoth linked above, "go name all of the big leaguers with successful careers who turned 26 the year they got to Double-A." That said, I'll agree that he's earned a chance to sink or swim.

Sep 25, 2012 16:04 PM
Bradley Ankrom

I checked for a Ruf statistical comp a few weeks ago and landed on Clint Robinson.

Sep 25, 2012 17:15 PM
rating: 0

I didn't say three PAs was enough for anything, though he had 3 more tonight and produced a single and a HR. Nor is 6 PAs, though it is easy for anyone to see how short his stroke is and how quick his hands are. The HR was with 2 strikes on a 93 mph cutter up and in on his hands. He pulled his hands in and knocked it out of the park. The Phillie color guy, Chris Wheeler, who has been around since the 70s, couldn't stop talking about how impressive that was.

Neither should you dismiss, or at least you should make some stab at talking about, what he did this year in AA, where his OPS was 161 points higher than the second best hitter in the league.

Btw, he turned 26 in July. This is his age *25* season. He's one year older than Boggs was when he got his chance in the majors. Edgar Martinez didn't make the majors until he was 24 too, and didn't get a chance to play regularly until he was 27. Is it the fault of the kid if the organization doesn't know what it has?

But before you use his age against him, have you looked up his record? He didn't start in the GCL until 2009 when he was 22. He's hit everywhere he's been. His power started to explode last year. And now he's in the big leagues. 3 years from the GCL to the bigs--that wasn't such a slow trip was it?

Sep 25, 2012 21:23 PM
rating: -1
Bradley Ankrom

That's the thing, he's *always* been much older than his competition. He SHOULD be tearing those levels up, yet he never went off until this year in Double-A as a 25/26-year old.

Sep 25, 2012 21:56 PM
rating: 0

.894 in the Florida State League in '11 isn't going off? Of course he should do well at his age. But he's had 2 full years of good numbers in a row. He can only hit where they put him.

Sep 25, 2012 22:26 PM
rating: 0
Bradley Ankrom

Look at the guys in the who finished ahead of Ruf in OPS in 2011: Kris Davis, Brock Kjeldgaard, Kyle Jensen, Brian Dozier. For me, Ruf is basically Kyle Jensen with one very good month at Double A, and I don't consider Jensen to be a prospect (and he's a year younger).

Sep 25, 2012 22:50 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I talked about what Ruf did in Double-A in the "What he did" section. The numbers were very impressive, but the scouting reports didn't match the stats. You're right, if the only reason he hasn't made it before now is that the organization did a lousy job of evaluating him, it's not fair to hold it against him. I just think it's much more likely that the organization does know what it has. The odds are that Ruf is another Clint Robinson, as Bradley suggested, not another Edgar Martinez (who, as you said, debuted two years earlier and had more defensive value at the time).

I wouldn't say Ruf made a quick trip to the majors--he started out with a conservative assignment, didn't dominate, and repeated the Florida State League as a 24-year-old. He has hit at other levels (though not everywhere he's been), but when you're a defensively challenged first baseman who's not ahead of the aging curve, you really have to mash to be considered a prospect. He didn't do that before this season, especially in light of his levels. This season he has, and he's getting his chance. I hope you're right and he proves he should have gotten it earlier, since it would be a good story, but I'm not betting on it.

Sep 25, 2012 22:03 PM

Let me be clear. At this point in his career Ruf's a long shot. I replied at first because of the way you dismissed him: only 3 PAs since called up and some other HR leaders were bums. Well, that's not "all you need to know".
He had gotten only 3 PAs before tonight because the Phillies don't want to admit they're done, they have Howard, signed for forever at 1B (one reason they weren't pushing him through the system perhaps), and Ruf is defensively challenged in LF having not played there before (I also question your claim that he's a bad 1B). The fact that some other big HR guys flopped means next to nothing--about as much as the Robinson comp. E.g., Ruf broke Howard's Phillie HR mark in AA, though in more ABs. Hey, Howard didn't flop!
Funny I should mention Howard. He was another prospect who was old for his leagues and also had some bad contact issues to boot. He debuted in midseason of his age 25 year.
Repeat after me. This is Ruf's age 25 season. He is *one* year older than Boggs and Martinez when they debuted, 2 years younger than Edgar was when he got to play much, and the same age as Howard was his first year. His age isn't dispositive of much of anything.
Of course you still have those scouting reports for which there is no rebuttal, other than how things play out on the field.
I liked the article, btw. It was a good idea. I'm just saying the Ruf part needs work.

Sep 25, 2012 22:53 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I think it's a stretch to compare Ruf to Howard, beyond the fact that they play the same position in the same organization. Howard debuted in the majors about 16 months younger than Ruf did, and you can certainly make the case that his arrival was delayed by Jim Thome. Maybe you could make the case that Ruf is blocked by Howard now, but he hasn't been before, because he wasn't knocking on the door until 2012. As you indicated, Howard hit 37 HR in his monster Double-A season in 115 fewer at-bats than Ruf had this year, and he was also younger when he did it. More importantly, Howard had the scouting reports to go with his stats. Baseball America ranked him in the top 30 prospects in baseball before the 2005 season. BA didn't rank Ruf in the top 30 prospects on the Phillies before 2012. You're treating the scouting reports like an afterthought, but I think they're the most important piece of information here.

By the way, Edgar debuted almost 18 months younger than Ruf, and Boggs debuted over 27 months younger than Ruff. It's too simple to say that Boggs was one year younger than Ruf because he debuted in his age-24 season and Ruf debuted in his age-25 season. Boggs was 23 when he played his first big-league game, and Ruf was 26. Ruf's age is definitely a reason to discount both his performance to date and our expectations for his future.

Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the non-Ruf parts of the article, and I appreciate the discussion. If you think Ruf is a long shot, I'm not really sure what we have to disagree about.

Sep 25, 2012 23:26 PM

I wasn't comparing Howard to Ruf per se, or Boggs or Edgar, but rather citing examples to counter those conjured up by Bradley in particular. I'm actually trying to argue against that kind of facile analysis that slides over the differences in players. Here's a general principle: you can't illuminate much about who a player is by showing what another player isn't. Not that that stuff can't be mentioned, but it's not likely to be a significant point and you shouldn't make too much out of it.

Good to see you've moved from years to months. But I agree with Rany Jazayerli when he wrote that months are very significant when you're talking about teenagers, not so much here, in the mid twenties.

Here's John Sickels' take on Ruf to compare to yours: http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/9/11/3313673/rookie-review-darin-ruf-of-1b-philadelphia-phillies-scouting-report. and a followup he did on Ruf's defense at 1B http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/9/12/3321338/more-thoughts-on-darin-ruf-defense-phillies. Btw, I've noticed whenever one of your guys, e.g., Jason Parks, talks about other prospect gurus, they mention Callis or Keith Law but rarely if ever Sickels. Any reason for that? Sickels has been doing prospects and doing them well, since, I'm guessing, some of you were playing Little League ball.

There are longshots and longshots. You say categorically that these guys you have identified won't be able to back up their stats if they get to the show. While I appreciate your need to argue a position and avoid the wishy washy, in Ruf's case I think that goes too far. I think he does have a decent chance, particularly if he can get traded out of Philadelphia.

Sep 26, 2012 06:33 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Re: Sickels: This was addressed the last time it was brought up on the site. Here's the basic fact: I don't mention Sickels as a prospect guru because I don't often source/use his work. Just because he's been in the prognostication game for a while doesn't mean I have to include him when listing other writers in the same field. It doesn't mean I don't respect his service time (I do), but if I don't read his work on a regular basis, why would I mention his work on a regular basis? Also, I played above the Little League level. I somehow managed to play select ball in the North Texas area until I destroyed my knee. How novel that I actually played the sport I write about....

Sep 26, 2012 08:33 AM

Thanks for the answer, Jason. Impeccable logic, but it leads to the question: why don't you read Sickels regularly, or at least to the extent you follow Law and the others? His perspective, methods, sources, etc. differ from Goldstein and you, but the results typically are similar. Compare Sickels' midseason list this year with the one Kevin posted one month later.

You're of course free to read and rely on whomever you wish. I had noticed the omission, seen it repeated, it seemed glaring to me, and I missed any prior discussion about it. So I asked.

Sep 26, 2012 09:01 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Well, you said Ruf is a long shot in one comment and that he has a decent chance in the next, so I'm having a hard time getting a handle on what you project for him. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Ruf won't be able to back up his Double-A stats from this season in the majors. Howard slugged .647 at Reading and then slugged .659 in the majors. You think Ruf would come anywhere close to replicating his .620 SLG if he had a full-time job?

If you were arguing against analysis that ignores differences between players, I don't think Boggs and Martinez were the best examples you could have used. Bradley wasn't arguing that Ruf will fail because Clint Robinson failed. He was saying that Robinson was very similar statistically and didn't succeed, to make the point that Ruf's stats don't prove he's major-league material. Just about every year, we get a guy like Robinson or Kila Ka'aihue who mashes in the minors more or less like Ruf did, and scouts say his skills won't translate. More often than not, they're right. And come on--I'm not quibbling about a month or two here. You said Ruf was "one year older than Boggs was when he got his chance in the majors." He was over two years older. That's a significant difference at any age.

Sep 26, 2012 09:34 AM

So now "backing up" his AA stats becomes replicating them or at least somewhere close to replicating them. I know you can't be serious about that as a standard for the article because even many of the best prospects typically require a year, two, or three to adjust to the big leagues as MLB pitchers work them over. And many are good major leaguers without replicating their best year in the minors. Using that standard would surely render meaningless any article about what's likely to happen with the marginal guys.

What standard to use? How about MLEs? According to MLSplits, Ruf's AA season translated into 258/320/476 in the majors. But that's without any growth and we know Ruf has been improving rapidly the last couple of years. In fact, late bloomer is an alternative explanation between the Phillies do or do not know what they have in him, and likely to be the most accurate.

Let's assume the Phillies trade Howard to Texas for Olt and Leonys Martin and install Ruf at 1B. And he continues to improve a bit so that he puts up a 270/330/500. Would that be enough for his first full year in the bigs in his age 26 season to establish that he backed up his minor league numbers?

Sep 26, 2012 11:27 AM
rating: -1
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

If the Phillies can get Texas to give them Olt and Martin for Howard, I think they'll be so happy they won't care who's playing first. But to answer your question--there's probably no point in arguing about what qualifies as "backing up," since that's subjective. But assuming Ruf is at least slightly below average on defense, if his production at first base at age 26/27 is a .270/.330/.500 line in Philly, he'll have a pretty short shelf life. In 2010, Ryan Howard hit .276/.353/.505 with a -3 FRAA in 620 plate appearances. That was worth 1.6 WARP. If the best a player has to offer is below-average production at a position, he's never far from being replaced. So I think he could hit like that (which is probably better than most scouts would project for him, and which is better than what PECOTA projects for him) and still satisfy my "won't last long or amount to much" condition.

Sep 26, 2012 12:26 PM

Backing up his stats was your term. I would have thought you had something specific in mind when you used it. Make a note: Fanatics ready to pounce when I'm vague.

An .830 OPS would have tied Ruf for 13th among all 1B this year, if you include part timers C Carter and Matt Carpenter, 11th if you don't. And we're talking about his rookie year, with improvement in 3 straight seasons. As a power hitter, more improvement would be likely as he reached his power peak. In that case, you think he still fits under "won't last long or amount to much"? If so, I think we are left with a claim that can't be proven wrong by any reasonable means.

Sep 27, 2012 07:34 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Raw OPS isn't all that matters--when Howard surpassed the stats you quoted in the same park, he rated as a below-average first baseman. And I don't think it's likely that Ruf will continue to improve beyond the age at which players typically stop improving.

Anyway, I don't have much more to add here. I haven't seen Ruf play any more than you have, and I don't have any special insight into his future. I'm just choosing to believe the scouts who say he's not a prospect, and I don't think the stats provide a compelling reason to believe they're wrong. The only possible proof is how he plays, and that's something we'll have to wait to see. If he gets an extended look somewhere, I'll be surprised if he outhits Bryan LaHair. And if he never gets an extended look somewhere, that'll be telling, too.

Sep 27, 2012 11:47 AM

Make another note: the writers on this site are being far more patient with your condescension than you deserve.

Sep 27, 2012 12:04 PM
rating: 5

Edgar was blocked for 2 years (I think) by Jim Pressley by the idiot Mariners. During that period, Bill James lamented the blocking of Edgar in one of his old abstracts.

Sep 30, 2012 17:35 PM
rating: 0

I actually did some research on this when Kevin Goldstein posed the question on Twitter re: 26 year olds debuting in AA. I can't remember how far I went back (I think into the 1970s), but the best I could find was Rich Rowland who debuted in AA at 26. Rowland accumulated 254 PAs over 6 seasons in the majors after making his debut at the AA level at the age of 26.

Ruf is 25 so the data set is different - I think there are a few more players who debuted at AA at the age of 25 who had a bit more success than Rich Rowland at the major league level. But the list is not long.

Sep 27, 2012 22:17 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Thanks, that's interesting. If you still have the list somewhere, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Sep 27, 2012 22:23 PM

I'll hunt for it this weekend when I have some time. I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere in my files.

Sep 28, 2012 05:18 AM
rating: 0

I've sent it off to you (I guessed at your email address). If it doesn't make it to you, let me know. I've also sent an email via this article.


Sep 30, 2012 21:29 PM
rating: 0

Speaking of Draft rounds...Brandon Beachy, anyone?

Sep 25, 2012 16:32 PM
rating: 1

I have tracked Kevin Nolan for a while, and while I don't think he'll ever be a starter, I think he could find his way to getting a utility role someday. He plays all of the positions - having played at least once everywhere but CF and C. He hits lefties well enough - bearing in mind your points. One thing I find interesting about him is that he's big, as utility guys go. 6-2", 200. I don't see why he can't turn into a Mike McCoy type with less glove, more bat. #IAmNotAScout

Sep 25, 2012 21:14 PM
rating: 0

It's not that I disagree that Granier is an org arm, it's that I don't think the reasons you're using are all that persuasive. Regarding the low draft position, that could also be applied to Dallas Braden, Dan Straily and AJ Griffin. Again, I'm not saying any of those guys is a future HOF, but I wouldn't call them org arms either. It's probable that Granier is an org arm, but it would have been helpful to tell us how he's different from the three guys in recent A's history who made the majors while also dominating the minors with supposedly mediocre stuff.

Sep 26, 2012 00:14 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Well, it's not that I'm saying Granier can't succeed because of his draft position--where he was drafted doesn't really affect what he does today. I'm saying his draft position was indicative of his stuff, which is the real reason why the sources I spoke to said he was an org arm or a bullpen candidate.

Off the top of my head, I don't know how Granier's stuff compares to Griffin's and Braden's at the same age. The story with Straily is that his stuff simply improved far more than anyone thought it would, to the point that he was touching 95 and no longer had the same repertoire he did when he was dismissed as an org arm. For whatever reason, scouts didn't pick up on his projectability. Of course, the same thing could conceivably happen to Granier--there aren't many absolutes when it comes to prospects--but you never really bet on someone to follow Straily's trajectory.

Sep 26, 2012 00:29 AM

I think it's fair to say that almost every year there is an over-aged command/breaking ball pitcher in the low minors who dominates there, yet falls off dramatically once moved to AA.

Sep 26, 2012 07:25 AM
rating: 1
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