Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tommy Hanson vs. Derek Holland vs. Neftali Feliz

"Hanson probably has the best stuff of anybody in the organization right now--even at the big league level. If there is one kid in the whole organization who is untouchable in a trade--that was one of the hang-ups in the Peavy deal--it would be this kid. He's as good as advertised. He's going to have a chance to make this club out of spring training. If we don't make a trade for a No. 1 starter, I'd say it's a pretty good bet the kid could be on the opening day roster. He's not going to be starting Game 1, but you'll probably see him the first week of the season."

I know how much some of you all like Tommy Hanson, and as a Braves fan I really hope he turns out to be a great one, but just in case you've bought into the Tommy Hanson hype, here's a bit of perspective for you.

Raise your hand if you can name the 5 prospects the Braves gave up in 2007 for Mark Teixeira. If you said Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (I spelled that without looking), Beau Jones, and Neftali Feliz, then give yourself a pat on the back, because you were correct my friend. Prior to that trade, most avid Braves fans knew who Salty was, they also knew a few things about Elvis Andrus, and a few had even heard of Matt Harrison. But there weren't many fans out there who knew much about Beau Jones, and there might have been a handful of fans who recognized Neftali Feliz's name.

Fast forward about 18 months, and suddenly the Braves find themselves with very few options going into the 2009 season, piecing together an aging pitching staff and hoping that Jeff Francoeur and Chipper Jones can collectively put together 500 solid at bats. Meanwhile, the Rangers have a very healthy and powerful offense, and are quietly putting together a respectable group of pitching prospects.

Neftali Feliz, who before 2008 was probably considered basic filler in the Teixeira trade, is heading the Rangers' young pitching stars, putting up some of the best pitching stats of any Rangers prospect in recent history. While most Braves fans are completely hooked on Tommy Hanson, they'll soon find out that the Braves actually sent their best pitching prospect to Texas. To illustrate my point, here's a side-by-side comparison of Hanson and Feliz, along with Derek Holland, a very capable, yet overlooked Rangers pitching prospect.

Except for his strike out rate, Holland has outpaced Hanson, and has demonstrated the ability to keep the ball in the park while playing in some very hitter friendly leagues. Feliz is on the verge of being a very exciting pitching prospect, and will probably be soon be considered a top 20 or even top 10 prospect.

Just looking at those numbers, there's really no comparison. Feliz is just nasty (obviously his WHIP and ERA could be better, but his age puts him over the top), while Hanson doesn't even top Derek Holland, who has yet to appear on a single major prospect ranking list (although I expect him to crack the top 50 of several lists in the next few months). And once again, the problem with Hanson is easy to identify: his inability to keep the ball on the ground and inside the park.

Am I saying Hanson will never be any good? Not at all. Am I saying he will absolutely never be better than Derek Holland or Neftali Feliz? Once again, no. But what I'm getting at is that at this moment in time, there are better pitching prospects that for whatever reason are not getting the attention they deserve, while Braves fans (and more importantly the Braves front office and players) are all but certain that Hanson is "untouchable."

I'm not discounting scouting reports or insisting that I'm absolutely right about this one, so if you're a Hanson fan, please don't take all of this the wrong way. However, as a life long Braves fan, I hope that Frank Wren and company are able to realize exactly what guys like Hanson are and are not capable of accomplishing over the next few years, and plan accordingly. And for all you Rangers fans, take a moment to appreciate that your team is making some very smart moves as of late, and that the future is looking brighter.
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James said...

Hey Adam,

Not to sound like a broken record with comments on Tommy Hanson. Could you post your projection of his performance for this year? Assuming he will be in the big league rotation the whole season, I don't see why he will not put up numbers similar to Jair Jurrjen.

IP 175 H 165 K 165 BB 65 HR 15 2B 25 ERA 3.75 (3.50 at best 4 at worst) 10W - 10L
I think the big innings will probably hurt his ERA and W's.

If he's called up let's say during June/July. I can see him putting up better numbers because he could work on some of his pitches against inferior hitters.

Anyways, looking forward to your projection

Adam G said...

Hey James, comment on Hanson as much as you like. I appreciate the added perspective.

I'll try and work up some comparable pitchers and get a rough projection for him (assuming he pitchers in the majors some time this year).

Adam G

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, but your argument about Feliz was dead wrong. Feliz was recognized as of last year by several prospect guides as the prospect with the biggest upside of the group. Moreover, the Rangers were said to be adamant about his inclusion in the deal.

To suggest that Beau Jones carried more attention than Feliz is fanciful, at best. Neftali was on a lot of radars at the time of the trade.