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July 1, 2009

Future Shock

Dream Crushing

by Kevin Goldstein

When making a number of calls to scouts over the past two weeks, one of them began with, "do you want the good news or the bad news?" With plenty more to come in a more positive light, let's start with the bad news, as professional scouts get critical of some big names in the world of prospects.

The second overall pick in last year's draft, the pro debut of Pirates' third baseman Pedro Alvarez has been a mixed bag at best. He's hit 16 home runs in 268 at-bats between High- and Double-A while drawing 38 walks, but he's also hitting just .235 with 80 strikeouts while committing 17 errors in the field. One scout who recently saw him at Double-A Altoona was not overly impressed. "Obviously, he has massive raw power, but there's so much swing-and-miss in him, and he has as much of a chance to stay at third base as you do of dunking a basketball," he joked. "I'm not predicting it's going to happen, but I am concerned about the size, and could see him just getting bigger and bigger in a Mo Vaughn kind of way."

After making a huge splash last year by winning MVP honors in the Arizona Summer League, Padres outfielder Jaff Decker continues to put up huge numbers, batting .298/.462/.523 at Single-A Fort Wayne, thanks in part to 41 walks in just 151 at-bats, but scouts remained nonplussed about the short and stocky outfielder's ultimate upside. "I can't classify myself as a believer yet, and he's going to have to hit an awful lot," said one scout. "He's 19 years old with the body of an out-of-shape 39-year-old, and so it's hard not to question some things," he concluded, while admitting that the production is awfully impressive. "Look, those numbers are going to give him every chance to prove me wrong."

Another player putting up big numbers recently is Oakland slugger Chris Carter. After leading the minors in total bases last year, Carter hit just one home run in April, but he's been especially hot of late, as he goes into the final day of June with a .324/.440/.558 batting average on the month. Still, one scout had more concerns about Carter's propensity to swing and miss than anything positive to say, noting that he's "so big and strong, and it is absolutely enormous power. But if the ball is not in his immediate bat path, he misses." The scout added, "He's bad at seeing the slider, and bad at laying off the slider, and that's a very tough combination to overcome," admitting there are some fears that Carter will be just an up-and-down player in the end. "He's going to keep putting up big numbers, but he has holes above and below the barrel, and lots of areas that big-league pitchers can go to get him out. With what the A's have done with Jack Cust, you'd never want to say never, but I think when he gets to the big leagues, he's just going to strike out a ton."

One first-base prospect who has really seen his stock slip is Lars Anderson, who entered the year almost universally considered to be the top prospect in Boston's system. This spring, he's been generating disappointing reviews while putting up a middling .258/.355/.411 line at Double-A Portland. One scout called him, "the most overrated prospect in baseball," while another explained that while he saw many positives in Anderson's game, the overall hype seemed misplaced. "I like him, but I don't like him with a number-one status as the best guy in the organization," the scout explained. "He has plate presence and has some power, but there are a lot of moving parts in his swing, which is also a little long, so there are some real timing issues with him. I don't see him as a star, I see him as just a pretty good player."

One pitcher with numbers that are impossible to argue with is Giants righty Tim Alderson. After leading the California League in ERA during his full-season debut last year, the 20-year-old has a 2.36 ERA in his first nine Eastern League starts for Double-A Connecticut. Scouts still find it difficult to warm up to Alderson, however. "It's not an insult at all, he's a for-sure, big-league starting pitcher for me," said one scout who saw him recently, "but it's strictly back of the rotation for me," he added, while explaining that Alderson's backwards style of pitching is not one that is usually conducive to major league success. "That plus breaking ball is his calling card, and he's a guy with plus-plus control and average command, but he can't pitch off his fringy fastball, and you don't really see many changeups out of him."

Quote Book: Accentuating The Negative

Alan Dykstra, 1B, Padres (Single-A Forth Worth): "The on-base percentage is phenomenal, but he's big and stiff, and that's the definition of slider bat-speed."

Anthony Gose, OF, Phillies (Single-A Lakewood): "The guy can absolutely fly, but he's taking this big hack at balls and popping them up... it's like Willie Mays Hayes out there."

Kyle Skipworth, C, Marlins (Single-A Greensboro): "He struggles to get the bat started, and then expands his strike zone when he gets behind in the count. I can see him making some adjustments and getting to the big leagues, but it isn't going to be impact, and it's going to take awhile."

Dayan Viciedo, 3B, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham): "He's still out of shape, and I didn't see a lot of power, even in batting practice... he just looked like another guy."

Nick Weglarz, OF, Indians (Double-A Akron): "It's old-player skills, way too early. Even guys who look like that in the big leagues were at least athletes when they were 21 years old in the minor leagues."

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

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

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Matt Kory

As to Anderson, this is his age 21 season so it wouldn't be out of place if he had to repeat AA next season. He's still got time to develop, but this is certainly a disappointing season for him so far. I've also heard he's had some back pains. Do you know anything about that Kevin?

Jul 01, 2009 09:16 AM
rating: 0
 
dcarroll

I enjoyed this. It was a nice anti-hype piece.

Jul 01, 2009 09:25 AM
rating: 6
 
nonspin
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Any word on Jesus Montero so far at AA Trenton? SSS (77 PA), I know, but 304/377/478 with 8:6 bb:k for a 19yr old in that park seems insane.

Jul 01, 2009 09:32 AM
rating: -6
 
G. Guest

Montero doesn't fit into the context of this article at all.

KG Wrote about Montero less than a month ago:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8999

I'd bet that he'll be in another Minor League Update or Monday Morning 10 Pack (MMXP) by the end of this month if he continues his current levels of production.

Jul 01, 2009 09:41 AM
rating: 1
 
Al Skorupa

Yes, and he's been promoted since then and hasnt exactly raked... until the last couple days

Jul 01, 2009 11:32 AM
rating: 0
 
keeperleaguegm

Agree with dcarroll...would love to see more of this stuff KG. Top notch.

Jul 01, 2009 09:32 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Well . . . next you get all happy joy joy stuff.

Jul 01, 2009 09:38 AM
 
G. Guest

For those of you participating in insane keeper leagues, this is your "Sell High" list.

Jul 01, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 1
 
PujolsEsElHombre

In a weird way, I love having my bubble burst. Good stuff.

Jul 01, 2009 09:49 AM
rating: 1
 
Dan

Kevin, did Devin Mesoraco get considered for this list? 1st rounder in 2007, now hitting .207/.303/.350 in high-A ball.

I'm also remembering that you called him "pudgy" or "squishy" or something last year, didn't you?

What's a scout's take on him currently?

Jul 01, 2009 09:51 AM
rating: 0
 
FB365

Love this. Can't be all hype all the time. We tend to fall too in love with prospects. Sort of like back in high school when you had a huge crush on a girl because of her looks. Then when you finally get to talk to her you find out she's about as smart as a pack of bubble gum. The prospect of dating her was great at the time, but you start to think that maybe the girl who's really into music and politics may be the way to go.

Jul 01, 2009 10:00 AM
rating: 0
 
jnossal
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Spoken like a guy who never got to feel up the hot chick. Pack of bubble gum brains can be an advantage in that I'd never had got that far otherwise.

Jul 01, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: -9
 
Drew Miller

Wow, an utterly classic piece of misogyny.

Jul 02, 2009 08:09 AM
rating: 0
 
Cloochmere

It's interesting to read scout's takes on these guys. Given only the ability to look at Carter's numbers, one might be led to think he's controling the plate better, as his walk rate is up slightly, his K rate is down sharply(5%), and his LD rate is up 11%. I admit minor league LD rates aren't reliable, but as a layman I can see how it could look like he's taken a step forward this year.

As an aside, I don't think it's the bat that'll keep him from the show. It's the glove. If he's Jack Cust there too, that's not good.

Jul 01, 2009 10:42 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

I imagine the scout was only making the Alvarez/Vaughn comparison based on size, but I suspect Pirates fans would be quite happy if Alvarez has Vaughn's career path: sure he flamed out really early, much to the chagrin of the Angels and Mets, but he put up great number for the Sox and was one of the best hitters in the game for a couple of years. Those years would coincide with the ones the Pirates could afford for Alvarez and then he would only flame out after he became too expensive for Pittsburgh anyway.

Jul 01, 2009 10:58 AM
rating: 5
 
sunpar

I'd love to hear scouts' take on Jordan Schafer. He's back in AAA putting up decent numbers, but he's still striking out more than you'd like (at the pace that would have got him the Major League record if he'd stayed in Atlanta).

Jul 01, 2009 11:13 AM
rating: 0
 
jtrichey

Agree that I would love to read more of these type of articles.

Mr Goldstein, you have been working your tush off this year with all the little updates, big articles, Prospectus Idol, etc. Appreciate all your hard work.

Jul 01, 2009 11:20 AM
rating: 4
 
TC in NJ

Kevin, Keith Law said in one of his chats a couple of weeks ago that you made up the quote about Lars Anderson being "the most overrated prospect in baseball." Here's link: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/27034/mlb-insider-keith-law. Any response?

Jul 01, 2009 11:20 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Keith contacted me shortly after that chat to clear it all up. He didn't see that I was attached to it, so I can understand it just looking like a made up quote, as it is pretty strong. There's no hard feelings, at all really -- I get along with Keith just fine, so if you're are looking for some kind of Tupac/Biggie Smalls scouting writer gang war, I'm sorry to disappoint.

Jul 01, 2009 11:42 AM
 
TC in NJ

Thanks for the reply. I have a ton of respect for both of you, so I'm enormously relieved there's no beef between you. Though I've frequently said online baseball writing needs more battle raps...

Jul 01, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 2
 
phuturephillies

Wait, would you be Tupac or Biggie Smallz?

Jul 01, 2009 12:30 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

If you've ever seen Keith and I standing next to each other, the answer would be obvious.

Jul 01, 2009 12:47 PM
 
sgshaw

Those comments about Nick Weglarz and Jaff Decker were exactly the same things said about Kevin Youkilis at the same stage of his development. I'm not saying these two will turn out as well as Youkilis, but it seems that those comments were made by scouts who were looking for players who look good in the uniform. Haven't we gotten past this yet?

Jul 01, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 2
 
Amos

There's more reason for those comments with Weglarz and Decker, though. You may want to compare the comment about Weglarz's old player skills to guys like Youkilis, Dunn, or Cust, but those guys hit for average in the minors. Weglarz only has the power and patience in the minors. And while you may hear the Decker comments and say, "We're not selling jeans here," how many prospects are 5'10" with baby fat and end up stars?

Jul 02, 2009 07:10 AM
rating: 1
 
sgshaw

Youkilis and Pedroia just off the top of my head. But I'm not saying that Weglarz and Decker are going to be stars. There are plenty of toolsy players with "young player skills" who fail also. The point is that describing a guy with good plate discipline as having "old player skills" is just plain ignorant.

Jul 03, 2009 18:23 PM
rating: -1
 
Amos

Not really. Hitting for a mediocre average, but putting up good walk totals and slugging numbers is what great hitters do when they're old. Guys who do that when they're young aren't as good, don't age as well, and sometimes don't make enough contact in the minors. Someone like Weglarz is referred to as having old player skills because if he hits his upside, his numbers will look something like what Frank Thomas and Jim Thome did in their late 30s.

Jul 03, 2009 20:52 PM
rating: 1
 
Mountainhawk

Is being compared to Willie Mays Hayes a compliment or an insult?

Jul 01, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: -1
 
eliyahu

What about Moustakas? Number 2 pick from 2007 seems to be dissapointing in a way similar to #2 pick in '08 (Alvarez). Agree KG, or am I excessively down on Mous?

Jul 01, 2009 16:08 PM
rating: 0
 
G. Guest

I think that a key to this article is guys who may actually be putting up good stats, but, from a scouts prospective, are not great prospects.

So, it's safe to assume that there are guys putting up disappointing stats who still have the tools to qualify as great prospects.

Jul 01, 2009 19:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Lespaul1

Agree w/ sgshaw - too much man-crushing in the scouting community. Not every productive major-leaguer looks like Josh Hamilton. It's just easier to project a guy in apparent bad shape as less likely to succeed. Sort of like how the dude with bed-head doesn't interview so well.

Jul 01, 2009 19:53 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

thinking about it some more, the description of Tim Alderson sounds a lot like Kevin Slowey, except Slowey had a better changeup than curve while Alderson has a better curve than breaking ball. Both had ++ command/control and fringy fastballs. Slowey has made it work, and in that park in SF, I think a Slowey-type of trajectory for Alderson would thrill the Giants

Jul 01, 2009 23:00 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

"better curve than changeup" not better curve than breaking ball

oops

Jul 01, 2009 23:36 PM
rating: 0
 
EricJ

Anyone have an idea of how fast Alderson's "fringy" fastball is? The two reports Ive seen was 89-93 out of HS and "sits in the low 90's". 92-93 (if he's there) would seem to be enough with plus plus command. Does his body offer anymore projection?

Jul 02, 2009 13:39 PM
rating: 0
 
jnossal

Such a big word. And I'm thinking it doesn't mean I was shooting at myself, which I was if you read it properly.

Jul 02, 2009 22:20 PM
rating: 0
 
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