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May 1, 2014

PECOTA Takes on Prospects

PECOTA + Catchers 4ever

by Andrew Koo

Does PECOTA love catchers?

After we released the PECOTA Top 100 prospects list last week, a few commenters remarked on PECOTA’s apparent catcher leanings. Eleven of them appeared on the list, some higher than nationally beloved prospects. How dare PECOTA! In comparison, Jason Parkstop 101 featured eight catchers, suggesting a small discrepancy in the position distribution of PECOTA’s rankings.

Three additional catchers isn’t a significant difference, really, and with due respect to Jason and his exceptional team, it’s not like PECOTA must conform to our prospect authority. PECOTA’s methodology is completely different, meant to provide a complementary view, and if we trust its process, we should trust its results. If those results diverge from popular opinion, even better: maybe the stats are telling us something.

That doesn’t mean the process is perfect. All models have chinks in the code. I wrote about “positional upside” in the introduction:

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Related Content:  Prospects,  Minor Leagues,  PECOTA,  Projections

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

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Thank you again for bringing this back, and for the analysis here. Very excited for the rest of the series.

May 01, 2014 06:50 AM
rating: 3

So, what's the deal with JR Murphy ? He always seems to get overlooked. The consensus seems to be that Sanchez is the better prospect, but PECOTA clearly thinks otherwise. In fact, according to PECOTA he has more upside than any of the catchers who debuted last year or so far this year(excpet for Zunino), and yet not one word was written about him in this article. Is it the perceived lack of opportunity for him ? I also thinks it's interesting how much PECOTA likes him, he played well last year in AA and AAA, but it's not like he put up monster stats.

May 01, 2014 08:37 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

J.R. Murphy (and Stassi) get high ratings through the fact they both reached the majors last year. Prospects get credit for that, and in Murphy's case, he hasn't even turned 23 yet. Of course, it was strictly September coffee and he didn't amaze anyone, but also hit well in Double-A and Triple-A last year while being extremely young for both levels. PECOTA does project him for a bit more power than scouts perceive. It's a very stable profile overall (down to the average ~ above-average catching) without anything amazing, and yes, that can be overlooked.

May 01, 2014 08:53 AM

Love the series. I had a question about this statement:

"PECOTA tends to compare players to others at the same position, but a shortstop in Low-A today might not be a shortstop in the major leagues, because he might not have the range for the position. Nevertheless, teams will keep that potential shortstop at that position in the minors, in hopes that he’ll develop at the position—he has positional upside, after all."

Does PECOTA not account for players who were, say, playing SS at the same point in their career, but ended up elsewhere? In the case of catchers, specifically, would a catcher today get Neil Walker as a comp if they had a similar profile through the same age, or is he eliminated because we now know he's a 2B? If the latter, then why?

More generally, it seems like it should at least be possible to account for the general trend of positional shifting when projecting minor leaguers. If (to pull numbers out of nowhere) 30% of players who are catchers at age 22 and reach the majors do so as 1Bs, 10% become 2Bs, and 10% become RFs, couldn't the positional upside of a player be discounted based on that trend? Or would this step on the toes of the comps?

May 01, 2014 09:06 AM
rating: 2
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

Thank you!

Comps work on a player-season basis, so a minor-league catcher may receive Walker '07 as a comp.

I think it would be unfair to some prospects if we applied that trend to everyone. MiL catchers who will definitely be ML catchers shouldn't be discounted because other catchers are weaker. PECOTA does know the various positions a player plays at, so if a minor-leaguer played catcher and some first base, both positions get playing time in their long-term projections, both positions get FRAA projections, and the overall POS_ADJ wouldn't be as high as a "pure" catcher, thus decreasing value. If you look at Ryan Casteel's long-term projections for example, you can see "C 0, 1B 0" under the FRAA column.

It's a reasonable discussion to have though, because teams do try developing their prospects at the higher-upside position knowing the fallback exists. It just becomes messy--how many prospects are at risk of defaulting from catcher, versus how many prospects will certainly stay? I think the latter happens more, which is why we go case by case.

May 01, 2014 09:28 AM

PECOTA recognize Carson Kelly as a 3B, not catcher, which is why he does not appear here?

May 01, 2014 14:19 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

That's right.

May 01, 2014 17:26 PM

I am confused, Christian Vasquez is rated a very good prospect and Blake Swihart is well down the list. However, in the BP Top 101 Swihart is in at #73 and Vasquez is nowhere to be found. Swihart is #6 and Vasquez is #9 on the Red Sox list and throughout Red Sox Nation the impression has always been that Swihart is the #1 catcher in the system. This has come from the every segment of the media and has been parroted constantly. Reading everything from BP, it seems that Swihart has been very highly regarded and has done nothing this year but continue to develop. His hit tool seems to far outshine Vasquez and, while I hear distant drums that say Vasquez is in the highest echelon defensively, Swihart seems to offer more of everything else. WattsUp? The contracts of both Ross and Pierzynski are up after 2014. Do you think that the Red Sox will have the guts, optomistic, or stupidity, pessimistic, to start 2015 with Vasquez and Swihart as their catchers?

May 16, 2014 19:22 PM
rating: 1
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