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When our famous PECOTA projections were released earlier this month, our own Jay Jaffe took a look at the National League East and noted that the system smiled on Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, as Maybin has been at the top of prospect lists since his selection in the first round of the 2005 draft, and he was one of the big prospect prizes in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

There are few players anywhere in the minors who can match Maybin on a pure tools level, as he combines power, blazing speed, and a cannon for an arm. At the same time, his strikeout rate has always been a cause for concern, as his long, all arms-and-legs swing can tie him up in knots against good breaking balls. Still, with Maybin projected for a 23.5 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) as a center fielder, he’s on the short list of this year’s top rookies.

Let’s look at three big-name rookies in each league, and what PECOTA thinks they can do with a full season. We’ll balance that with information that PECOTA doesn’t account for, while also throwing the projections against a prominent member of a big-league front office (who will remain anonymous) for some thoughts from someone inside the game. This is hardly a complete list of rookies, as much as it is the most interesting.


National League


Tommy Hanson, RHP, Braves


PECOTA Says:
4.90 ERA, 129 IP, 124 H, 63 BB, 116 K; 7.9 VORP

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
PECOTA can’t see Hanson’s continuous in-season improvement, accentuated by the most dominating pitching performance in Arizona Fall League history. In the hitter-friendly AFL, Hanson’s combination of plus velocity and plus-plus secondary offerings limited opposing batters to just ten hits and two runs in 28 2/3 innings while the six-foot-six righty struck out 49. The only question is what the Braves will do with him; many think he’s ready for the big leagues, but the Braves insist that they’ll take things slowly.

Baseball Official:
“Gimme fewer walks and an ERA more in the 4.50 range … scouts in the Arizona Fall League thought he was the second coming of John Smoltz-he’s not there yet, but could be in time.”


Cameron Maybin, CF, Marlins


PECOTA Says:
.265/.347/.429 in 588 PA with 15 HR, 57 RBI, 62 BB, 165 K; 23.5 VORP

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
In this case, PECOTA knows all, as it has three full years of professional data to go on. If there is one thing it can’t do, PECOTA lacks the ability to pick up a phone and call scouts, so it doesn’t know that nearly every talent evaluator in the game thinks Maybin is perpetually on the verge of a major breakout. This projection would be a very good first season in what could be the beginning of a very good career.

Baseball Official:
“The walks are high… I don’t think he will hit 15 home runs… Among the top prospects, he may have the most holes in his swing.”


Colby Rasmus, CF, Cardinals


PECOTA Says:
.247/.328/.414 in 534 PA with 16 HR, 63 RBI, 55 BB, 108 K; 15.8 VORP

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
Rasmus’ 2008 season was one of the most disappointing in all of prospect land last year, but much of this was attributed to a slump that originated when he didn’t make the big-league club out of spring training. He was really just getting going, batting .337/.442/.535 in June before a knee injury cost him the remainder of the season and the ability to pick up his numbers on the year to a point where PECOTA would like him better.

Baseball Official:
“I think the stolen bases are high, as the Cardinals don’t run much… I also think the strikeouts are low, as he’s a very streaky player.”


American League


David Price, LHP, Rays


PECOTA Says:
4.20 ERA, 102 1/3 IP, 106 H, 37 BB, 78 K; 13.0 VORP

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
PECOTA doesn’t have eyes, so it didn’t actually see what everyone saw during October, which was a dominating force coming into his own pitching in the postseason. What it does have is a guy who was very good but not great in the minors. As one scout said, “He basically looked bored in the minors at times, he needed the big-league challenge to really step up and bring it all together.” A question remains as to how the Rays will use him in 2009 as he enters the spring as a candidate for both starting and closing roles.

Baseball Official:
“I love him and think he’ll easily exceed that… He’s a candidate for Rookie of the Year… If the changeup comes around he could be special.”


Adam Miller, RHP, Indians


PECOTA Says:
5.22 ERA, 81 IP, 91 H, 36 BB, 54 K

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
What everyone saw during the offseason; Miller has been a “perennial prospect,” as he now enters his seventh professional year balancing ridiculously good stuff with constant injuries. The Indians hope a move to the bullpen will help keep Miller off of the DL, and when he returned from a finger injury to pitch in the Dominican Winter League, scouts were blown away by a fastball that sat at 95-98 mph as well as a wipeout slider. He’ll get a shot at a bullpen job this spring, and could be contending for high-leverage late-inning usage by the end of the year.

Baseball Official:
“I think he will be much better than that… Same age, same stuff as Seattle’s Brandon Morrow… I’d predict an ERA around four with more than a strikeout per inning.”


Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers


PECOTA Says:
.247/.299/.332 in 586 PA with 4 HR, 38 BB, 119 K

What PECOTA Doesn’t Know:
In this case, it’s what PECOTA does know. Andrus’ performances are always mitigated by his youth, and while he’s always been among the youngest players at every level he’s played at, he’s also shown nothing more than an ability to hit first-pitch fastballs all over the field, which produces a good batting average but nearly nothing by way of power or patience. Throw in amazing defensive skills but a penchant for sloppy errors, and as weird as it might sound, Rangers fans should be glad that Omar Vizquel is around.

Baseball Official:
“I think this projection is right on… He’s never really dominated anywhere, and I think he’s overrated… Between being one of the big prizes of the Teixeira trade and the Michael Young move to third, there’s a lot of pressure on this kid.”


How does PECOTA fare with rookies in general?
Pretty damn well. Here are last year’s projections for the top three in the 2008 Rookie of the Year voting; Evan Longoria (Rays), Alexis Ramirez (White Sox), and Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) in the American League, and Geovany Soto (Cubs), Joey Votto (Reds) and Jair Jurrjens (Braves) in the National League:


AL         Projected                  Actual
Player     AVG/ OBP/ SLG  HR RBI SB   AVG/ OBP/ SLG  HR RBI SB   
Longoria  .267/.339/.460  25  86  6  .272/.343/.531  27  85  7
Ramirez   .294/.343/.463  15  70  9  .290/.317/.475  21  77 13
Ellsbury  .280/.344/.405   5  53 33  .280/.336/.394   9  47 50


Evan Longoria:
A slight underestimation on the power, but PECOTA knew that he’d be a stud, and gave him the best rookie projection in the AL.

Alexis Ramirez:
One of PECOTA’s best hits, this projection was generated without any professional track record to go by, except for Cuban numbers which were painstakingly (and deadly accurately) translated by our king of adjustments, Clay Davenport.

Jacoby Ellsbury:
That’s a pure bullseye. He’s good, but the Boston hype machine put him up there as a star; PECOTA saw through that, as PECOTA doesn’t read.


NL         PROJECTED                  ACTUAL
Player     AVG/ OBP/ SLG  HR RBI SB   AVG/ OBP/ SLG  HR RBI SB
Soto      .274/.353/.476  19  70  2  .285/.364/.504  23  86  0
Votto     .280/.360/.499  27  91 12  .297/.368/.506  24  87  7

            ERA  W  L   K  WHIP         ERA  W  L  K   WHIP
Jurrjens   5.07  8 10  97  1.48        3.68 13 10 139  1.37


Geovany Soto:
Similar to Longoria, PECOTA was only a touch short on projecting the power, otherwise seeing him as ready to be one of the better-hitting catchers in the game.

Joey Votto:
The on-base percentage off by just .008, the slugging off by .007. What else could you ask for?

Jair Jurrjens:
A rare miss, as PECOTA just didn’t see him making the jump from Double-A, where he was a guy known more for his command and polish than his ability to overpower hitters. At times, those attributes can be undervalued.

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marcos
2/11
Nice info and data, very enjoyable...lets have more! Like the Top 100 Prospect list.
ivynora
2/11
I notice no mention of PECOTA\'s 2008 projection of Daniel Murphy and how he surpassed the 90th percentile in every major category. Hrmph.
alskor
2/11
Yes, where is the mention of \"incredible luck?\"
gideonzeus
2/11
Where oh where is Matt Wieters?
Corkedbat
2/11
What? No Wieters?
kgoldstein
2/11
Um, I had an entire article on Matt Weiters\' projection last week folks.
alskor
2/11
\"Jacoby Ellsbury: That\'s a pure bullseye. He\'s good, but the Boston hype machine put him up there as a star; PECOTA saw through that, as PECOTA doesn\'t read.\" Who is putting Jacoby Ellsbury up as a \"star?\" I hear this claimed a lot... Ive never really seen it happen, and I live in the Boston area. He was a good CFer in his rookie season and started off better before hitting a rookie wall. Is 90% of Ichiro a \"star?\" He wsa ~3.5 wins last year. That\'s pretty good.
drewsylvania
2/11
Before his season last year, the hype machine had Ellsbury as a 100% chance of winning the RoY. To me, that\'s putting someone up as a \"star\".
alskor
2/11
You got a link on this??? Longoria, Joba and Buchholz were the favorites most places IIRC
alskor
2/11
Though there was talk of Ellsbury winning when he started off hitting like .335 with 30 SBs, to be fair... but that\'s not really the same. I dont think saying he was overhyped when he was hitting .335 is a particularly cogent point, you know?
chasingboston
2/11
Speaking as a Boston fan, there was a LOT of hype built up around Ellsbury, including well before the season started and he largely did not live up to it. Great D, great basestealer, but he\'s nothing special with the bat and REALLY needs to learn to walk more, A .336 OBP isn\'t acceptable, especially from someone that Terry Francona is probably going to bat leadoff.
mafrth77
2/11
the upside of Ellsbury\'s OPB, barring someserious BABIP love, is probably ~.350 due to his lack of power. Why would any pitcher ever throw him ball four?
alskor
2/11
What? 1) He\'s almost certain to get \"serious BABIP love\" consistently because of his speed. 2) .336 is a decent OBP. ~.330 is average. If he\'s a GG quality CFer with tremendous speed who gets 50SB/5CS every year with a .350 OBP that would be a pretty valuable player to have. Sign me and every GM in baseball up for that. That\'s a great leadoff option. 3) Considering PECOTA has him for a .348 OBP this season as a 25 year old in his sophmore season Id say him consistently getting on base at a .350 clip is pretty reasonable and his peak years will probably surpass that.
alskor
2/11
A .336 OBP \"isn\'t acceptable?\" He\'s a center fielder! Right now, this season, he was an above average option at CF. He looked like he was going to be much better until he got hurt diving for a ball at the end of May and his swing got messed up. He didnt recover for a couple months. He\'s a very good player. What KG means, and I mostly agree with, is that he lacks the secondary skills to make his ceiling much higher - but he\'s a very good player.
amosap
2/12
Nothing wrong with being the next Willie Wilson.
mafrth77
2/11
I don\'t remeber anything like that at all, Buccholz was the top Boston prospect, the hype at last years preseason was \"Joba vs. Buccholz\"
tremtwo
2/11
I don\'t think that \"educated\" fans (IE, the type of people willing to hang out on a BP comment board) were putting up Ellsbury as a star. However this is the kind of stuff that was out there a year ago in more mainstream arenas: Providence Journal: \"Fast learner: Red Sox\' Ellsbury seems ready to blaze a trail to stardom. The best hitters make outs 70 percent of the time. The best teams lose 40 percent of their games. The grinding, day-after-day nature demands commitment while virtually guaranteeing disappointment. But try telling that to Jacoby Ellsbury, who has a knack for making a difficult game look easy. What may be challenging to others looks natural for Ellsbury, who’s competing with Coco Crisp for the Red Sox’ starting center fielder’s spot.\" ---------------------------------------------------------- WEEI\'s Dale & Holley: \"Dale, who admits he is HUGE fan, even went as far as to say “We haven’t seen a player like this since Fred Lynn…” A bold statement, and Holley reminded Dale that Lynn his anywhere from 20 to 30+ home runs in a season, but Dale\'s point was simply that “this kid is special”\" ---------------------------------------------------------- Boston Globe: \"Every day you see this kid, you ask yourself, \"Who is he? Haven\'t I seen him before?\" related content His speed, his demeanor . . . is he Johnny Damon? Maybe, but he has a better arm and he might have more speed. When he hits home runs and plays a good center field and runs, is he Grady Sizemore? What an excellent finished product that would be. The emerging power and offensive ability . . . Bernie Williams? Maybe, but this kid can steal far more bases. \"A little Damonesque,\" said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. \"He has the ability with two strikes to throw that emergency hack on you and stay alive. He has shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park. He can change the game with his legs.\" Yes, he is all that.\" For now, we may just have to be satisfied with the fact that he\'s Jacoby Ellsbury, and on nights like this, when he strokes two homers, ignites the winning rally with a bunt, and scores from first in the eighth on a double, maybe Ellsbury is better than the aforementioned center fielders. Maybe this kid is going to carve his own little place in the game and in Red Sox lore. Right now, he\'s more than just a rookie leadoff hitter. He\'s becoming an event.\" ------------------------------------------------------- Not to mention that he had a full article about him in Men\'s Vogue magazine prior to the 2008 season. There definitely was a big hype machine in motion about proclaiming Ellsbury a future star.
alskor
2/11
Those arent from before the season. As I said, those were from when he came out of the gates like a rocket.
alskor
2/11
To clarify: Most of those articles, that is, and again, my issue wasnt the Ellsbury wasnt hyped up... Im just saying much of that can be attributed to a hot start. The contention was that before the season many people picked him ROY and I dont think there\'s much if any truth to that.
oneofthem
2/11
would like to see more articles on pecota, which is an evaluation and prediction methodology, discussing how well it has worked and how it can be improved etc.
ElAngelo
2/11
The comparison between the top 3 ROTY vote-getters versus PECOTA is interesting, but less helpful to us now, because we have no clue who\'s going to finish in the top 3 of ROTY voting. It\'d be more interesting to see who were PECOTA\'s top-10 rookies preseason and how they did compared to their projections. This of course may include these same 6 players.
rbross
2/11
Thanks for this, Kevin. I still don\'t trust PECOTA so much on prospect pitchers. That\'s another reason that your work here is so helpful. So let\'s hear more about Wieters! As an Orioles fan, I can\'t read enough about him!
ericmilburn
2/11
Kevin, check out Brett Cecil too. PECOTA loves him. I\'m very curious to see your take on him after he put up impressive numbers at 3 levels last year.
briankopec
2/11
I want to know which prospects Pecota missed on. Is there some kind of pattern to the hits and misses?
chico123
2/11
Does PECOTA predict rookie hitters better than pitchers?
rbross
2/11
My experience is that PECOTA is not as reliable with pitchers as it is with hitters. And Nate Silver basically acknowledged so in this article in 2006, which states that the path of pitching prospects is far less predictable than that of hitters: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4796 I\'m not sure about the extent to which PECOTA may have since been able to better take into account the variables affecting pitchers, so any additional clarification from Nate or anyone else would be much appreciated.
westy21
2/11
Wieters is going to win the ROY hands down.
PujolsEsElHombre
2/11
Just curious, but what did PECOTA project for Hanley Ramirez in his rookie season?
rbross
2/11
I\'m not sure about particular stats, but PECOTA had him at a 100.3 upside in 2006, the sixth best prospect at shortstop (behind Joel Guzman, Eric Aybar, Brandon Wood, Eduardo Nunez, and Adam Jones, respectively). http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4784
alskor
2/12
I think this may just be a symptom of the larger issue: pitchers are inherently more difficult to predict from year to year than hitters.
birkem3
2/12
Hanley was projected for .258/.313/.367 in his rookie year, but I remember hearing that scouts thought he looked bored in the minors and wasn\'t trying very hard. That\'s probably what brought his projection down so low.
edman8585
2/11
Is it fair to say I heard the same things about Hanley Ramirez three years ago, re: Andrus.
royalsnightly
2/11
PECOTA does better for some rookies than others. Mike Aviles, anyone?
nicholj
2/12
Absolutely loved the format - both what PECOTA doesn\'t know and the opinions on the projections. I have always wanted to see an article where the experts predict which of the PECOTA projections are most likely to be over/under achieved based on information that PECOTA does not see. Nate used to do this but I personally think your and Will\'s assessments would be the most insightful.
HonusCobb
2/12
Someone mentioned Weiters...but what about Pablo Sandoval?
philosofool
2/12
Anybody else remember the PECOTA Jay Bruce projection last year? PECOTA definitely over projects rookies sometimes, especially ones with a small sample of minor league ball. That\'s what has me thinking twice about Wieters.
billgraz
2/14
I\'m a little confused about where these projections come from. For example, the Joey Votto projection in this article says 27 home runs and 91 RBIs. Yet, when I look at the spreadsheet I built from the PFM right before my draft I see him projected at 18 HR and 62 RBI. Why is my downloaded forecast different from what you\'re reporting in this article? Even if I scale it up for the actual number of PAs it\'s still only 22 HR. The OBP numbers match. I don\'t have slugging percentage in my spreadsheet.
andland
2/14
But how did the formidable rookie Edinson Volquez do compared to his projection?
irablum
2/16
Pecota also missed Chris Davis going from A ball to the majors.