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May 16, 2014

PECOTA Takes on Prospects

UPSIDE at Second Base

by Andrew Koo

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Series introduction and methodology
Previous positions: Catcher | First Base

Here’s a chart of production by position in 2013:

Position

PA

TAv

WARP

1B

20581

.281

63.6

2B

20638

.261

63.0

Last week, I talked about the offense required from first basemen to offset their negative positional adjustment. This week, we explore second base, whose occupants hit 20 points of True Average worse last season but produced the same total WARP. This demonstrates the defensive gap we’re familiar with while also illustrating the low offensive bar for second basemen. One needed to produce a TAv of only .261 while playing average defense to be a “league average” second baseman last year (league-average TAv is always scaled to be .260). Gregor Blanco personified the league average hitter in 2013—and he had the 114th-best TAv out of 141 qualified batters.

Very Good Prospects

Rank

NAME

Org

Age

UPSIDE

1

Mookie Betts

BOS

21

52.4

If you peruse Betts’ long-term forecast on his player card, you’ll note that PECOTA projects him to eclipse 4 WARP annually, with 10 years of All-Star caliber production. His UPSIDE tells a less optimistic story: he’s a very good prospect, yet barely. Prospects with his forecast would normally sit in the UPSIDE top 10 with twice his score of 52. This divergence between the long-term projection and UPSIDE happens occasionally, and uncommon players like Betts tend to cause it. His minor-league career thus far has been nothing but hit after hit after hit, with power, contact, and speed included. Projecting that forward is no problem for PECOTA, but finding comparables is. Betts is listed at 156 pounds, and I need not calculate the league weighted (no pun intended) average to know that’s historically light (210, if you’re wondering).

Let’s find some crude comps for Betts using just that information. Here’s a list of major-league players born after 1970 and weighing 160 pounds or less:

Name

Position

Height

Weight

PA

WARP

Luis Castillo

2B

71

145

7471

23.7

Juan Encarnacion

RF

74

160

5095

8.4

Maicer Izturis

2B

68

155

3350

7.8

Damian Jackson

2B

70

160

2509

5.8

Deivi Cruz

SS

71

160

4375

4.0

Jarrod Dyson

CF

70

160

742

3.9

Desi Relaford

SS

68

155

3347

3.4

That’s an incomplete list, as 37 others qualify but none accrued over 1 WARP in their career (some still active, like Billy Hamilton). You can see why PECOTA hits a roadblock comparing him: Betts, forecasted for 37 WARP through 2023, has no precedent, and the players who simply matched his body type weren’t very good. Basically, his stature isn’t found in successful major leaguers, but such positive projections must be considered. So PECOTA ends up comparing him all over the board according to his multiple skills—he gets Alexi Amarista and Jose Altuve, then he gets Wil Myers and Billy Butler.

Do I think PECOTA is handling Betts correctly? I think PECOTA is finding the right comparables and smartly flagging the rarity of Betts’ profile (his Similarity Index is just 69). I’ve mentioned the importance of being cautious in cases with low Similarity Indexes a few times in this series, and while it may feel like a cop-out, it’s also important to recognize when the variance is larger. Mookie may ultimately succumb to the limitations of his size—that’s the low end—or he might continue to hit like he has and achieve his potential.

In a way, PECOTA’s treatment of Betts matches Jason Parksinitial skepticism about his physique. Just as Betts has re-proven his chops in 2014 to earn a spot in Parks’ midseason top 50, PECOTA would find even more favorable comps for Betts knowing about his .368 TAv thus far for Portland. Betts already compares to several major leaguers—the way into UPSIDE’s heart, as minor-league comps rate lower—and his advanced hitting in Double-A would demand further big-league comparables. Until he establishes himself in the majors, though, he’ll carry some risk with him as an undersized player.

Good Prospects

Rank

Name

Org

Age

UPSIDE

2

Jose Ramirez

CLE

21

41.1

3

Jacob Wilson

SLN

23

40.4

4

Devon Travis

DET

23

39.7

5

Avain Rachal

CIN

20

38.1

6

Ronald Torreyes

HOU

21

37.3

7

Anthony Kemp

HOU

22

36.3

8

Thomas Coyle

TBA

23

36.1

9

Rougned Odor

TEX

20

36

10

Albert Cartwright

PHI

26

35.9

11

Joe Wendle

CLE

24

35.2

Fielding, speed, and contact are Jose Ramirez’s calling cards. The presence of multiple tools, however, doesn’t necessarily translate to a positive outlook. Ramirez projects as a below-average hitter, the kind who hits for average and runs well yet lacks power. At second base, a team could do worse. Ramirez compensates for his below-average bat with solid fielding, which makes him a two-WARP player if he plays a full season. At a low-depth position, many teams do, in fact, do worse (looking at you, Yankees, Jays, and Orioles).

Devon Travis was old for High-A, but his .341 True Average undoubtedly stands out; moreover, the power complemented with favorable contact numbers charms PECOTA. The Astros, in a possible organization-wide initiative, own two prospects here in Torreyes and Kemp with solid BB:K ratios. The UPSIDE score for Rougned Odor is rather low given that PECOTA likes him very much—just not immediately, it seems, as he doesn’t project to break a league-average TAv until his age-26 season. Joe Wendle slugged .513 last year, but his comps aren’t so power-friendly and, unlike Betts’, PECOTA is confident about them.

More Good Prospects

Rank

Name

Org

Age

UPSIDE

12

Evan Van Hoosier

TEX

20

35

13

Robert Refsnyder

NYA

23

34.2

14

Raoul Torrez

HOU

26

32.5

15

Ryan Rua

TEX

24

32.4

16

Ordomar Valdez

CLE

20

32

17

Kolten Wong

SLN

23

31.5

18

Delino DeShields Jr.

HOU

21

31.1

19

Maxx Tissenbaum

TBA

22

30.6

20

Jonathan Schoop

BAL

22

30.5

21

Jamodrick McGruder

CIN

22

29.9

22

Breyvic Valera

SLN

21

29

23

Deiner Lopez

BOS

20

28.4

24

Joe Panik

SFN

23

26.8

25

Iramis Olivencia

MIA

19

26.6

26

Malik Collymore

SLN

19

26.1

27

Branden Kaupe

NYN

20

26

28

Will Hurt

MIN

20

25.4

A great list if you love quirky names. Next to Betts, Kolten Wong has PECOTA’s best long-term forecast. His 2015 projection (.257/.307/.380) barely beats this year’s second base average (.256/.321/.375), and PECOTA expects Wong to flutter around average/above-average like this for 10 years. Because he lacks an impact tool, his UPSIDE is hurt from his comps including many tweener types who fall on the “under” side of average. Wong doesn’t have any particular skills to utilize as fallbacks if he declines—PECOTA doesn’t know about his makeup—and he doesn’t have any skills that might “break out” either. That equates to a low-variance profile overall, which lacks upside, but reducing risk is never a bad thing. I haven’t mentioned that PECOTA projects him to save 9-10 runs each year at second base; combine that with his average offensive production, and you’ve got a stable three-win player.

Robert Refsnyder has an emerging bat, but PECOTA doesn’t think he’s a good second baseman. Switch-hitting Breyvic Valera ascended past Low-A only this year, but he’s hit for contact wherever he’s been; with five defensive positions to his name and at just 21 years old, he could provide sneaky value for the Cardinals down the road. Joe Panik is another contact-heavy hitter who’s succeeded in Double-A; like those of many others on this list, his stats spell utility infielder.

Notable Average/Marginal Prospects

Rank

NAME

Org

Age

UPSIDE

31

Wilmer Flores

NYN

22

24.4

42

Eddie Rosario

MIN

22

22.5

105

Arismendy Alcantara

CHN

22

9.2

In general, UPSIDE is lower on prospects who display aggressive or swing-and-miss tendencies—patience and contact rate are two primary components of comparables—and this triplet suffers slightly as a result.

Top 25-and-under second basemen

Rank

Name

Org

Age

UPSIDE

1

Jose Altuve

HOU

24

265.7

2

Josh Rutledge

COL

25

84.5

3

Jedd Gyorko

SDN

25

78.3

4

Nick Franklin

SEA

23

58.1

5

Mookie Betts

BOS

22

52.4

6

Steve Lombardozzi

BAL

25

43.2

Altuve, like Betts, doesn’t compare well historically. Even though we’ve seen over 1,500 of his plate appearances, he went from a four-win player to below replacement level last year. PECOTA opts for the middle and calls him above-average in the short term, and he’s rebounded thus far, improving his contact rates.

PECOTA ignored Scooter Gennett’s .308 first-year TAv quite readily. It’s a reminder that taking walks remains an important skill; very, very few hitters can walk at a four percent rate and compensate just by hitting for average (Altuve couldn’t manage it in 2013). Even though Gennett has shown an aptitude for it, last year’s .324 batting average was largely “empty,” and also higher than his minor-league performances. As a result, he came out with an UPSIDE of 9.2, and PECOTA forecasts his batting average to fall further.

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

Related Content:  Prospects,  Minor Leagues,  PECOTA,  UPSIDE

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

BP Comment Quick Links

kgbacengro

Just curious if Dilson Herrera is considered a 2B or SS for these purposes......please say SS....

May 16, 2014 04:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

He's a second baseman. Played all his games there last year.

May 16, 2014 06:39 AM
 
Jquinton82

How do you guys not have profar included?

May 16, 2014 06:04 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

He's still a shortstop to us. UPSIDE likes him very much.

May 16, 2014 06:38 AM
 
BradleyT16

where is micah Johnson on this list?

May 16, 2014 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

Pretty far down. PECOTA doesn't think he's a great hitter in the future, and despite his great production at Low-A last year, he was rather old for the level; when he ascended to High-A, he experienced quite a drop off (still old for the level, too). PECOTA thinks he can scrap together a career being a poor hitter but playing (very) good second base and stealing bases--though scouts disagree with his high FRAA, which contributes half his projected value. His top comp is Eric Young Jr.

May 16, 2014 08:22 AM
 
JamesP469

Where would Tommy La Stella be on this list?

May 16, 2014 09:23 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Andrew Koo
BP staff

La Stella nears non-prospect status because of his age and profile. PECOTA compares him to a slew of utility types; the UPSIDE (10) suggests he's a backup. He can hit, sure, but it's an empty batting average and he lacks any kind of upside elsewhere. That's not unplayable at second base at all (he would HAVE to keep hitting like he is now), but PECOTA really doesn't like his defense.

May 16, 2014 10:01 AM
 
CRP13

DeShields is not a 2B anymore. I know you're just looking at last year's stats, but he's an OF now.

May 16, 2014 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

That's quite an UPSIDE score for Altuve. 265.7

Greatest-all-time? Or typo? :)

May 16, 2014 10:24 AM
rating: 0
 
OuagadougouGM

Altuve has a lot of room to grow...hehe

May 16, 2014 12:30 PM
rating: 3
 
tomterp

If/when Zimmerman returns, Rendon moves back to 2nd full time. How would he rate for upside among that group?

May 16, 2014 17:50 PM
rating: 0
 
oldbopper

I just finished watching Betts play 3 games. Mookie went 6-13 with 2 doubles, a 400+ foot HR, a couple of BB's and steals. I have been watching baseball for longer than any of the math whizzes at BP have been alive. Forget the Portland Sea Dogs, I used to watch the Portland Pilots, (New England League in the 40's) and there has never been a skill set like this on such a small player that I can recall. It will be very interesting to see if he can carry this all the way. As the article says, he has to drive PECOTA crazy and the comparison of Betts to Butler must be the most bizarre ever(LOL). The funniest, and best, moment was seeing him stand on 1st base next to 6'5"- 275lb Kennys Vargas. I was thinking as I watched them if there had ever been such a difference in size between two players.

May 16, 2014 18:17 PM
rating: 5
 
melotticus

Adam Dunn vs Jose Altuve

May 22, 2014 08:26 AM
rating: 1
 
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