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March 28, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
While Gerrit Cole is getting all of the attention in the Bruins rotation, Bauer has actually outpitched him on a statistical level, including a one-hitter on Saturday in which he retired the first 19 batters he faced, took a no-hitter into the eighth, and finished with 14 strikeouts to become the school's all-time leader in that category. While his 1.13 ERA in six starts and 72 whiffs in 47 2/3 innings impress, his stuff isn't near that of Cole, but it's awfully good, with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and solid-average secondary stuff. Jason Parks detailed the funk in his delivery, but as one scout says, “It seems to work for him,” as he's now firmly in the mix to be a first-round pick.

Brandon Beachy, RHP, Braves
While it was an open competition, it was still a surprise to see Beachy beat out lefty Mike Minor for the final slot in the Atlanta rotation. Both pitched well this spring, but Beachy put an exclamation mark on his spring Friday by tossing six shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.13 in 16 innings while allowing just seven hits. That said, it's 16 innings, and Minor threw just 10, and should we really be judging off such small samples? Minor is the better prospect, and it's doubtful that service time played a big role in the decision; the team opened last season with Jason Heyward, and without him in April for service-time issues, they wouldn't have been in the postseason. The point might be moot, with Minor in line to break camp with Atlanta should Jair Jurrjens be unable to go, but he's more likely to make an impact this year than Beachy.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
While plenty of roster announcements throughout the majors have been announced, Belt remains in limbo. With two hits on Friday and Saturday offsetting a Sunday 0-fer, Belt has hit .292/.343/.508 this spring, leaving scouts more convinced than ever that last year's breakout campaign was the real deal. While he's still likely to start the year at Triple-A on a plan similar to what the club did last year with Buster Posey, outfielder Cody Ross' injury could end up giving Giants fans an earlier-than-expected glimpse of the future.

Andrew Chafin, LHP, Kent State
Chafin is suddenly becoming a pop-up guy in the draft, moving slowly but steadily up the ladder, and even more so after Friday, when he struck out 15 in a four-hit shutout against Toledo that required just 113 pitches, 88 of which were strikes. A draft-eligible sophomore after missing the 2010 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Chafin has a minuscule 0.53 ERA in 33 2/3 innings while allowing 18 hits and striking out 42, and on a stuff level, he's showing a 90-92 mph fastball with heavy movement, touching 94, and striking out hitters with a plus slider. He's not in the first round yet, and the red flag of the elbow injury could keep him just on the outside all spring, but he could end up a first-day pick.

Tim Collins, LHP and Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals
While prospect watchers salivate at the Kansas City lineup of the future, their bullpen suddenly got very young; it was reported that Collins made the big-league roster, with Crow likely to join him barring an unexpected roster move. While it's impossible to dislike a 5-foot-7 pitcher like Collins, he also validates a personal list, as I ranked him as the 11th-best prospect in the Toronto system two years ago when many still saw him as a sideshow. I noted that he'd have to prove it at every level, and he has done that with a career minor-league strikeout rate of 13.3 per nine. The bigger surprise is Crow, who has a 5.73 ERA last year to go along with a late-season demotion from Double- to Low-A. The good news was that his stuff was always there, and it has remained so, while even ramping up a bit in relief stints; his fastball has been consistently in the mid-90s and his slider remains plus. His big-league status is still tentative, but he could be one of many good stories to come from the Kansas City youth movement this year.

Brad Emaus, 2B, Mets
Emaus has seemingly won the second-base job in New York while also serving as a prime example of what small spring sample sizes we are dealing with. Four days ago he was hitting an ugly .216/.341/.270, but with four hits on Thursday and a double on Saturday... voila! He's at .289/.396/.444 and the second baseman of the future! Scouts that have seen Emaus this spring haven't been impressed. “He just has zero range, is throwing up home-to-first times in the upper 4s, and doesn't really have power,” said one scout who recently saw Emaus. “He works the count and can have a high OBP, but he's basically Scott Hatteberg at second base.” That assessment was surely the strangest comp of the spring.

Mikie Mahtook, OF, Louisiana State
Usually a national powerhouse, the Tigers are suddenly freefalling, losing six of their last seven games (including two of three over the weekend against a mediocre-at-best Georgia team). One of the lone bright spots on the team has been Mahtook, who went 5-for-11 with a pair of home runs during the series to raise his season averages to .365/.476/.741. His tools might leave him just outside the first round, as he's more of a player without a below-average tool than one loaded with plus ones, but in a pitching-heavy draft, he could move up due to the scarcity of bats.

Brent Morel, 3B, White Sox
Morel was expected to win the third-base job for the White Sox, and he has done everything to prove why. He's in the midst of a 17-for-43 hot streak that has brought his spring average up to .313. At the same time, his overall line of .313/.338/.375 shows the weaknesses in his game, as 16 of his 20 hits have been singles, and he has drawn just two walks in 64 at-bats. He's a big makeup guy who plays hard, he's a good defender, and he can put a bat on a ball, but his lack of secondary skills could leave him in the second division when it comes to starters at the hot corner.

Ivan Nova, RHP, New York Yankees
While there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the back of the Yankee rotation this spring, Nova has been strangely good, with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings while allowing just 11 hits. However, he only has nine strikeouts. The lack of whiffs is a bit of a mystery that is continuing from last year, as while Nova can get up to the mid-90s, has a good breaking ball, and has added a cutter to the mix this spring, he's still not missing many bats. He's obviously not going to have a 1.80 ERA during the regular season, but the question remains of just how high it will go without the expected strikeouts.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Mariners
Smoak has entered that strange purgatory where he's no longer a prospect and far from a proven big-leaguer. His .218/.307/.371 line in nearly 400 big-league plate appearances last year was far under expectations, and while he has been handed the first-base job in Seattle, much of his spring has left more questions than answers. Despite going 4-for-8 with a pair of doubles in his last two games, he's still hitting just .244/.367/.390. Multiple scouts have wondered if he is, as one talent evaluator coined, “passively pressing,” by working the count too deep while waiting for the perfect pitch, and trying to hit the ball 500 feet when he gets something in the wheelhouse. There's still plenty of talent here, but trying to predict what he'll do this year is getting closer and closer to a dart throw.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

CongoHammer

I like Tim Collins' chances of succeeding at the Major League level this year much more than Aaron Crow, but it would still be interesting to see what would happen with Crow if he starts in the majors. Do you think either of them have closer potential though? I mean, they have Soria for now and Jeffress is in the pen, so either way it should be one of the more exciting bullpens to watch this year

Mar 28, 2011 04:51 AM
rating: 2
 
xnumberoneson

It's interesting to see how much scouts and evaluators have differed on Emaus. I went through the last few years of BP blurbs on him, and saw that he "has a quick, short stroke that makes his power come easily and naturally," and has "enough pop to suggest that some could last in the majors. He is also "a solid defender at the keystone" and has "a bit of speed." Now that he's a Met, scouts are not impressed and he has no speed, range or power. I'm not suggesting an anti-Met bias, but it makes me wonder. It's not as if he turned into a different player in the last year.

Mar 28, 2011 05:21 AM
rating: 3
 
delatopia

I can think of three possible reasons:

-- Emaus is just having a subpar spring.

-- Major league camp is essentially a room full of beauty queens, and Emaus looks deficient in comparison, as just about any woman would when you evaluate on traditional metrics.

-- Expectations have changed, just as one has different expectations for a relationship prospect versus taking on a spouse. Maybe a boyfriend's charms (enjoys a drink or five, raffish, cool and independent and unafraid to proclaim so) look a lot less appealing once you start to consider the prospect of marriage. None of those positive comments that xnumberoneson mentioned seem to be all that out of the ordinary for a prospect (and two are really not all that glowing), but once you're considering marrying your team to him, you start looking at the flaws and faults a lot more closely than you did when you were thinking, hmm, this person might be relationship material and these positive qualities are why.

Now, undoubtedly the point of scouting should be to grade each person individually, but I suspect that biases and comparisons inevitably creep in. I tip my hat to anyone who finds their significant other to be just as appealing in a room of beauty queens and The Most Interesting Men in the World.

Mar 28, 2011 07:18 AM
rating: 14
 
leites

Delatopia - very much enjoyed reading your comments. But, in pageant terms, it seems like the competition for the Mets' 2B job has been more like "Miss Holiday Inn - Long Island City" than "Miss America."

Mar 28, 2011 08:21 AM
rating: 9
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

When others are throwing out Dan Uggla comps, does it make you wonder about a pro-Mets bias? Just wondering . . .

Mar 28, 2011 09:22 AM
 
dscotto10

I definitely don't buy into an anti-Met bias angle. With that said, I think the poster has a valid question. Can anyone explain the discrepancies in the books v. "scouts that have seen Emaus this spring?" Has something changed for Emaus? Has he not Were the original reports wrong? And what of his solid statistical record?

I don't have an opinion here, but this seems like a pretty interesting line of inquiry from the perspective of methodology.

Also, has anyone impartial made a comparison between the Emaus and Uggla beyond the similarity of circumstances? Fangraphs.com ran a story a few weeks ago making the comparison (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-parallels-between-brad-emaus-and-dan-uggla/), but the author ends with a pretty clear distinction:

"While Emaus and Uggla present similar cases, it’s obviously silly to think that Emaus will necessarily turn out the same way. The Marlins got incredibly lucky with Uggla."

The Uggla comparisons seem, to me, to be wholly due to the Rule V status, not over any expectation of performance, which is what the scouts are delving into here. I think there's a distinction.

Mar 28, 2011 15:36 PM
rating: -3
 
Yarky1

Maybe he regressed. Or maybe scouts were talking about projection more than current reality. Might be having a bad spring. Lots of possibilities. Team bias is not one of them.

Mar 28, 2011 11:48 AM
rating: 4
 
amazin_mess
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I agree. It is all the rage right now to color anything Mets-related with puke green. It's simple sensationalism.

Mar 29, 2011 10:42 AM
rating: -4
 
Al Skorupa

You know what else is "all the rage?" Fans of a team thinking they've struck gold with their fringy, 25 year old, unathletic Rule 5 pick.

Emaus was not some well regarded, stud prospect before he became a Met, I assure you.

Mar 29, 2011 22:01 PM
rating: 2
 
Joe D.

Yah, shame on you Met fans for being thrilled they plucked a guy who might be league-average at a position where they were in desperate need of options, and that they further got him free in a draft that typically yields something less than bupkus.
You dummies.


Mar 30, 2011 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
timber

The link to your Collins ranking with Toronto isn't right - it goes to some quotes from 2000.

Mar 28, 2011 08:06 AM
rating: 0
 
metfanaaron2001

As a Met fan, Scott Hatteberg at 2b sounds pretty good considering last year we had a gimpy Castillo and a green Ruben Tejada collectively slug under .300 in 400+ PA at the position.

Mar 28, 2011 09:44 AM
rating: 4
 
Joe D.

Hard as hell to get a fair, objective opinion on Emaus. Half the opinions seem auto-generated from dudes who see that he's doughy and aren't willing to look much further.

The other half of the opinions -- perhaps in an overviolent, knee-jerk reaction to the first group? -- are overselling the hell out of him, throwing Uggla's name around, etc.

On the fielding:

For what it's worth, BPro had Emaus' second base FRAA as -5 in 2008, +10 in 2009, and +4 (AA) and -2 (AAA) last season.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=emaus-001bra

TotalZone had him at -2 in 2008 and +8 in 2009.

His range factor per game was above 5 (above average) at all four stops he's made since 2008, with the exception of his 10 games in Las Vegas, where it was 4.80.

Last season, he made 0 errors in 32 games at the position, in 2009 his fielding percentage was .977, and it was .980 in 2008.

I'm not thrilled with defensive metrics in general. But if Emaus truly had "ZERO RANGE," wouldn't it show up somewhere? In something? A little?! The last season he was allowed to play 2B full time, TotalZone, RF/G, and FRAA all agreed he wasn't a negative at all.

Maybe Emaus is the Bizarro Jeter. Nobody thinks Emaus is getting to the balls, but he is. :)




Mar 28, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 4
 
tdrury

Wait, so are you saying that everyone thinks that Derek Jeter is gobbling up balls, but that he really isn't? When did this turn into Page Six?

Mar 28, 2011 17:08 PM
rating: 2
 
gilgamesh

I just hope Emaus doesn't blow chunks and Havens gets healthy. Not too much to ask.

Mar 28, 2011 11:49 AM
rating: -1
 
Matthew Avery

Quite the contrary, KG. I think service time was the reason there was an "open competition" for the 5th starters' role. Minor's most likely going to be the better player, but why not let him throw some minor league innings and call him up as a replacement for the first injury? It helps you with service time, it helps you limit his ML innings (for whatever that's worth), and it allows you to reward a player (Beachy) for his good performance, which is just a good way to keep him and other prospects motivated to perform their best.

I'm fine with the move, but I expect the Braves to give Minor an opportunity in the near-future. The real question is what they'll do if Derek Lowe or Tim Hudson falls off a cliff while Minor is lighting it up in Gwinett.

Mar 28, 2011 11:51 AM
rating: 1
 
kmbart

"[Chafin] he struck out 15 in a four-hit shutout against Toledo that required just 113 pitches, 88 of which were strikes. A draft-eligible sophomore after missing the 2010 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery..."

113 pitches a year removed from TJ for a 20-year old? Why do pitchers go to college again?

Mar 28, 2011 12:56 PM
rating: 0
 
delatopia

113 pitches over nine innings is a heck of a lot different than 113 pitches over five or six.

Mar 28, 2011 21:09 PM
rating: 1
 
JamesP469

He's still a yr removed from TJ either way

Mar 29, 2011 10:11 AM
rating: -2
 
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