Which young pitchers does PECOTA see as having breakout potential in 2017?
“Breakout” can mean different things to different people. It can mean a prospect or untested young big leaguer establishing himself as a valuable regular. It can mean a relative unknown becoming an impact player. It can mean a well-known star making the leap to full-blown superstar, perhaps even following up a “breakout” one year with an even bigger “breakout” the next. Your own definition may vary, but in PECOTA’s case “breakout” is all about out-performing track records.
PECOTA assigns each player a “breakout rate” for the upcoming season based on their odds of beating their established level of recent performance by at least 20 percent, with historical player comps serving as an important factor. Because the entire system is based on regressed-to-the-mean, 50th percentile projections, breakout rate identifies the players most likely to leave that in the dust for their 70th, 80th, and 90th percentile upsides.
What if a hitter swung at literally every pitch he saw?
No batter should swing at every pitch they see. That would be preposterous. Relatively few batters should swing even half the time. For most guys, patience and plate discipline are hard-won, valuable skills, the backbone of a successful approach. It would be so cool, though, if we could find a player who should swing at everything.
Imagine such a player. He’d have to be so prone to strikeouts that he could trade any chance of walks for the extra hacks and chances to make contact. He’d also need to have good power, to make up for his inevitably tepid on-base percentage. He’d also have to be unbelievably good at hitting pitchers’ pitches, even ones pretty far outside the strike zone, and hitting them hard—or at least, he’d need to be close to as good at that as he was at hitting pitches within the traditional hitting zone.
The Situation: The Rockies don't really need another outfielder on the roster. Their best outfield prospect, David Dahl, is already up and raking, and Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez have acquitted themselves well for the purple and black in 2016. But the calendar has turned to September, and the Rockies don't even merit a spot “in the hunt” on wild card race graphics, so why not give Raimel Tapia and his quirky swing a look-see.
The Background: A low-six figure signing for the Rockies out of the Dominican in 2010, Tapia quite literally has hit his way to the majors. Once stateside he never hit lower than .305 at any minor-league stop and has been a mainstay on BP prospect lists since Jason Parks first laid his lusty eyes on him on the backfields. The main question around the prospect was if his hyper-aggressive approach and unorthodox swing mechanics would succeed against better pitching. The returns from his stints in Hartford and Albuquerque are encouraging and have earned the 22-year-old a big-league cup of coffee
The Rockies might have picked the worst time to get hot this year, but some nifty GMing means their outlook is better than it has been in some time.
The long season plays cruel tricks on every team, and if it sometimes gives great and wonderful things (as it did to the 2007 Rockies, flinging a merely good team into the World Series), it usually comes to collect on that advance later on. This summer, Father Baseball pointed the Rockies in precisely the wrong direction in the second half of July. A mediocre team without a real chance to contend in the NL this year, the Rockies got hot at just the wrong time—coming out of the All-Star break with 14 wins in 19 games—and made no trades before the deadline. In D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado has three players whose long-term value is dubious, and who will be free agents by the end of 2018 (Gonzalez after 2017), but who would have had real trade value in this market. At least one of those guys should be somewhere else right now. Heck, after the dust settled and Will Smith commanded such a significant price, Jeff Bridich looked a little less than brilliant even for leaving Jake McGee’s market unplumbed.
The Situation: Tyler Chatwood has gone on the disabled list with a lower back strain and the Rockies are calling up another big-time arm, Jeff Hoffman, to fill the void.
Background: Originally from upstate New York, Hoffman went undrafted out of high school because teams were scared away by a commitment to East Carolina and large bonus demands. His first two years on campus were unspectacular but he ventured to the Cape the summer before his Junior year and took a major step forward, striking out 33 in just 24 1/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Hoffman continued to improve during his draft year (2014) showing big-time velocity and feel for the breaking ball before succumbing to forearm tightness and eventually Tommy John in May. Teams continued to salivate over his potential and despite being on the shelf, the Toronto Blue Jays took him with their first of two picks in the first round. Almost exactly a year later, Hoffman made his debut in the Florida State League and was quickly promoted to Double-A. The Blue Jays then included him in the Troy Tulowitzki deal and Hoffman got to take his talents to the Rockies. Fast forward to 2016, fresh off a Futures Game appearance and in the midst of striking out 124 in 118 innings Hoffman gets the call and his first assignment is the Chicago Cubs.
The Situation: Brandon Barnes isn’t very good. The Rockies had a guy in Triple-A with an OPS above 1.400. Colorado will rectify the situation by sending Barnes out of town and calling up that prospect. His name is David Dahl.
Background: Dahl was a standout in high school, putting up big numbers at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, performing well at showcase events, and earning comparisons to Dustin Ackley. At the time, that was a compliment. The Rockies swooped him up with the tenth pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, and after hitting .379 in short-season Grand Junction, expectations were huge for his first professional season. Unfortunately, 2013 was a lost season, as he was suspended for missing a flight, and then missed all but ten games after tearing a hamstring. He came back strong in 2014 with a .827 OPS in stops at Asheville and Modesto. 2015 was another tough season for the young outfielder, as he suffered a ruptured spleen after a collision in the outfield, and posted a pedestrian .278/.304/.417 line in Double-A New Britain. Once again, Dahl bounced back beautifully, hitting .278 with 13 homers in Hartford, and then crushing Triple-A pitching to a borderline unrealistic tune of .484/.529/.887 in Albuquerque before earning his call-up.