Monday, July 7, 2008

Prospect Update MLB Style

A quick look at the progress (or lack thereof) some prospects have made at the major league level this season...

  1. Justin Masterson -- With 54 innings under his belt, Masterson has a 4-3 record, with a 3.67 ERA. His most recent start against the Yankees exemplified his talent as well as his short comings, as Masterson kept the Red Sox in the game, but had to work his way out of some walk-induced jams. His 53% ground ball rate is a bit low for him, and I expect it to rebound over the next 6-12 months, but the ERA will most likely settle in around 4.00 for the year. When his walk rate drops back down and his GB% climbs back up around 60%, expect some 15+ win seasons real soon.
  2. Chris Davis -- While his time with the Rangers has only spanned 34 plate appearances, Davis has shown that he's ready for the challenge playing at the major league level provides, and can provide some pop in the bottom of the Rangers order. His current .200 batting average is a little misleading, as his BABIP has dropped to .150, about .200 points below his minor league average. Essentially, Davis is experiencing some bad luck at the plate, despite making frequent contact. I like that his walk rates and strike out rates are constant with his minor league numbers, and his power numbers suggest that he can handle major league pitching just fine. He can only go up from here.
  3. Billy Butler -- After a really slow start, Butler was sent back down to AAA to work out some kinks. Once there, he flashed the power and contact rates that helped him reach the majors as a 21 year old last year, and he was quickly called back up to rejoin the Royals. His minor league numbers still aren't translating into major league success, but his peripheral numbers suggest that the problem doesn't lie with anything Butler is or is not doing. The Royals are a really bad offensive team, and young players tend to struggle playing in such situations, thus the problems Butler and Alex Gordon have experienced. I still think Butler is a .300/ 30+ home run hitter, it just might take a couple more years for him to reach that point.
  4. Daric Barton -- Barton came into '08 with high expectations, and I really thought he could hit close to .300 and maybe approach 20 home runs this year. But then Barton began striking out at a 22.8% clip, roughly twice his minor league rate. To make matters worse, Barton's K% has increased every month since April, and it doesn't seem like he's sure what to do next. His power numbers have stalled as a result, and his average has plummetted to .223. He's still only 22 years old, so he has time on his side, but maybe the Athletics should let him work out his strike out issues at AAA where he'll be a little more comfortable and confident at the plate.
  5. Delmon Young -- After a very impressive full year at the age of 21, Young seemed poised to meet all the expectations that have surrounded him since his early days in the minors. And while his '08 numbers aren't bad (his .728 OPS is even with his .724 OPS from 2007), Young's power numbers have undergone a slight regression, with most of his extra base hits coming as doubles and very few homers. In '07 Young posted a 3:1 doubles to home runs ratio, while he has seen that number in '08 climb to 5:1. The .300/ 30+ home run talent is still there, but as with Billy Butler, I think the problem here lies with the team more than the individual, and we'll see a dramatic increase in Young's production once the Twins can develop a better supporting cast.
  6. Jay Bruce -- After a hot start, Bruce has settled into his projected pace, with a .273 batting average and 6 home runs in 162 plate appearances. He'll probably end the year with around 20 home runs, and be set for establishing himself as one of the best young hitters in the game in 2009.
  7. Sean Gallagher -- I'm not sure how Cubs fans feel about Gallagher, but I hope they appreciate what his modest numbers mean for a 22 year old pitcher. While his 4.45 ERA isn't amazing, his peripheral numbers match those put up by Yovani Gallardo last year, and Gallagher has the potential to be every bit as good as Erik Bedard or even Jake Peavy. Since the Cubs have such great pitching this year, Gallagher has been allowed to work through a couple of poor outings without too much pressure, and I think he'll be a great asset in the playoffs.
  8. Justin Upton -- The name of the game for Upton is strike out rate, to the tune of about 30% for the season. His output in April was a bit misleading, but he should still end the year hitting somewhere around .265 with 20 home runs, making him one of the most productive 21 year olds of the past decade. As the Diamondbacks mature and get better, so will Upton, and there's no reason he can't put up some .280-.290/ 30+ home run seasons in the next few years.

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