Monday, January 27, 2014

2013-2014 AB4AR Top 30 Prospects: Those We've Lost

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

I thought there was high turnover from the first Top 30 to last year's when 9 new players made the cut.  From last year to this year the turnover was even higher, 13 players to be exact.  That's almost half of last year's list gone and replaced by new faces.  That seemed high to me at first, but when I considered all the factors that led to the high turnover rate it's not as drastic as it seems.

There are a handful of players no longer eligible for this year's list because they're on other teams and there were multiple players who were no longer eligible due to Major League service time in 2013.  When you eliminate them, the number of guys who dropped off due to age and/or subpar production this year is reasonable.  When you consider the influx of young talent that joined the system this year in the form of 3 1st round picks and a healthy collection of young international players, the higher turnover becomes more than reasonable.  After the jump, the 13 players who, for a number of reasons, won't be appearing on the 2013-2014 Top 30.

Austin Aune- SS/OF, GCL Yankees (2012-2013 Rank: 29th)

There was a lot of hype surrounding Aune after the Yankees gave a big signing bonus to lure him away from playing football for TCU.  He lived up to it in his first year of Rookie League ball, hitting .273/.358/.410 and flashing the raw tools that led some to think he could stick long-term at shortstop.  He returned to the GCL again in 2013 to continue his development and everything fell apart.  He completely stopped hitting (.192/.230/.263 in 165 PA), he stopped walking (4.8% BB rate), he stopped making contact (43.6% K rate), and he didn't take well to a transition to the corner outfield.  It's hard to pinpoint what the cause for this nosedive was, but it was so severe that there's no way I could keep Aune on this year's list.

Cito Culver- SS, High-A Tampa (2012-2013 Rank: 27th)

I wanted to keep Culver on after his strong finish in Tampa (.403 wOBA, 6 XBH, 13 R in 16 games), but looking at the whole of his pro career to date there was just no way.  His defensive skills at shortstop are very, very good, good enough that he could get thrown into the Major League lineup tomorrow and do just fine in the field.  The kid just doesn't hit.  He didn't hit in the short-season leagues, he didn't hit in almost 2 years of Low-A ball before getting promoted, and the conversion to a full-time righty hitter didn't do much to help.  His defense will take him a long way in his quest to break into the show.  Without an even average bat to go with it after 4 years, I can't call him a real prospect anymore.

Nick Goody- RHRP, High-A Tampa (2012-2013 Rank: 26th)

This decision is based solely on Goody missing 99.9% of the 2013 season with an elbow injury and resulting TJS and nothing else.  Had he been healthy, he probably would have ended up in the 20-24 range on this year's list because he was that good in 2012.  The future is still bright for Goody as long as he can come back fully recovered and show the same combination of top shelf stuff and plus command he displayed 2 seasons ago.

Melky Mesa- OF, Triple-A SWB (2012-2013 Rank: 25th)

The window of opportunity was already closing on Melkman 2.0 when I made the decision to include him on last year's list.  After a repeat season in Triple-A that wasn't as good as 2012 (.334 wOBA in 332 PA), another cup of coffee in the Majors that was cut short by a hamstring strain, and with his 27th birthday coming up this Friday, it's time to call that window officially closed.  Mesa is no longer on the 40-man roster and is now destined for life as a Quad-A org depth player.

Tommy Kahnle- RHRP, Philadelphia Phillies (2012-2013 Rank: 24th)

Kahnle would have been a longshot to stick on the 2013-2014 list regardless of whether or not he was taken in last month's Rule 5 Draft.  He walked 45 batters in 60.0 IP in his return to Double-A Trenton, which limited the impact of his 74 strikeouts and raised questions about how that lack of command would translate to the higher levels.  A 25-year-old Double-A pitcher who still hasn't figured out how to harness his stuff is basically a lottery ticket and the Phillies Rockies decided to take the chance on him.  I bet he ends up back on the Yankees when all is said and done.

Dellin Betances- RHRP, Triple-A SWB (2012-2013 Rank: 21st)

If you're a regular AB4AR reader, you know that I considered this past season Betances' last chance.  He's gone from top-of-the-rotation prospect to garbage time reliever over the last 7+ seasons and still only has 8 Major League appearances to his credit.  He'll turn 26 in March and even with the Yankees trying to go cheap to fill out their bullpen he's not a favorite to win a spot.  He's more likely to go back to Triple-A on his final option and wait to be called up when the situation necessitates it.  That's not a prospect.

Ravel Santana- OF, Houston Astros (2012-2013 Rank: 20th)

I gave Santana an injury pass last year, hoping he'd be able to make it back to full strength in 2013 and show the wide range of skills that put him on the map after his 2011 season.  Instead he got hurt again, this time breaking his arm in Extended ST and missing the entire season.  He was surprisingly taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the Astros, but as a soon-to-be 22-year-old outfielder with no full-season league experience, there's next to no chance he sticks there.  Between the ankle and the arm it's hard to see Santana ever putting the pieces back together to become a legit prospect again.

Dante Bichette Jr.- 3B, Low-A Charleston (2012-2013 Rank: 15th)

2013 was going to be the true test of DBJ's prospect legitimacy after he crashed and burned in his first year of full-season experience in 2012.  He returned to Low-A Charleston and unfortunately picked up right where he left off.  In fact, Bichette actually got worse in 2013. From a .308 wOBA to .294.  From an 18.0% K rate to 24.5 %.  Bichette didn't show that he had learned anything from the previous year, he didn't make any changes or improvements to his approach at the plate, and he didn't get any better defensively at third base.  You hate to call it this early, but at 21 it looks like he's done.  Definitely a 1st round pick the Yanks wish they could take back.

David Adams- 3B, Cleveland Indians (2012-2013 Rank: 14th

This is where the stories start to get a little happier.  Adams was off this year's list after he was non-tendered off the 40-man roster and then signed by Cleveland, but at least he got to make it to the show and play for the Yankees in 2013.  Adams was part of the cycle of players shuttled in to cover third base, and his performance wasn't much better than anybody else's.  He hit .193/.252/.286 in 152 PA with a 28.6% K rate, so he appeared to be overmatched at the plate, but the Indians still saw enough in him to give him a Major League deal this offseason.  Here's hoping he has a better year in his new surroundings in 2014.

Adam Warren- RHP, New York Yankees (2012-2013 Rank: 11th)

Warren dropped a tad after repeating Triple-A in 2012.  He followed the David Phelps road map to the Majors in 2013, pitching well enough in spring camp to earn a spot in the Opening Day bullpen and spending the whole season there.  In 34 appearances (2 starts), Warren pitched to a 3.39 ERA, 4.32 FIP, and was worth 0.1 fWAR in 77.0 IP.  He worked primarily as the team's long reliever and turned in more than a few very good outings of long relief work over the course of the season.  He's expected to be a part of the 5th starter competition this spring and will assuredly end up in the 'pen again if he doesn't win.

Brett Marshall- RHSP, Chicago Cubs (2012-2013 Rank: 10th)

I admittedly inflated Marshall's value some last year because he had moved up to Triple-A and was right in the mix for a call up if injuries/poor performance occurred in the Major League rotation.  Marshall didn't help his cause by pitching badly for the majority of the SWB season (5.13 ERA/4.62 FIP).  He made his situation worse by giving up 6 ER and 3 HR in the 12.0 Major League innings he pitched.  Marshall made himself expendable by not pitching well when he had a chance to secure a spot and that spot was needed when the Yankees started signing free agents this offseason.  With guys like ManBan coming back, Marshall and his low ceiling were no longer needed and now he's a Cub.

Corban Joseph- 2B, Triple-A SWB (2012-2013 Rank: 9th)

Joseph was another inflated value prospect, and his situation was the perfect storm for me in terms of overvaluing him.  He had a good, consistent career of MiL production, he had a breakout year in 2012 that saw him rise to Triple-A and swing the bat better than he ever had, and he played the position that the Yanks could need to fill immediately if they didn't re-sign Robinson Cano.  The opportunity was there for CoJo this past season, he just wasn't able to capitalize on it.  He didn't hit well in his Triple-A return (.239/.329/.383, .328 wOBA), he did nothing to impress in a 2-game Major League cameo, and he missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.  Now he's off the 40-man roster, he's 25, and could be fighting for playing time at SWB.  That's a big fall.

Austin Romine- C, New York Yankee/Triple-A SWB (2012-2013 Rank: 7th)

The final member of the 2012-2013 class, Romine was another who was lucky enough to graduate and not just fall off.  An early-season injury to Frankie Cervelli gave Romine the nod as the Major League backup, and despite a painfully slow start he did turn in an encouraging performance.  The overall numbers don't look great (.247 wOBA, 25.0% K rate, -0.2 fWAR), but Romine was starting to swing the bat well before a concussion ended his season and he looked comfortable and smooth behind the plate.  He definitely proved he can be a capable Major League backup catcher, and if something happens to Cervelli again he could be right back in there behind Brian McCann this year.

** Coming up tomorrow- the guys who just missed the cut. **


Travis Lincoln said...

The Colorado Rockies took Kahnle, not the Phillies. Good post, just wanted to point that out though.

Unknown said...

You're right, my bad. Phillies were the team that he was reportedly offered to during the trade deadline. Got that mixed up in my head.

Post has been corrected. Thanks for pointing that out.

Anonymous said...

Wow…if Jeter had been written off the first 2 years of his career because of his performance then we wouldn't know who he is today. Sure hope these players aren't reading your blog….or if they do then I hope they prove you wrong!

Unknown said...

Derek Jeter also raked at every level of full-season ball he played in the Minors, never repeated a level, and was a starting Major League shortstop at age 22. Not exactly a fair comparison.

The only guy on this list that I actually wrote off was Bichette, and if you're comparing Bichette to Jeter after what he's done his last 2 seasons in Charleston then you're out of your mind.

Anonymous said...

Don't care to argue with you but I disagree how you write we've lost some of these players and demean their dreams . These young men deserve positive injections as they manage struggles in the game as well……It's a tough battle. But I couldn't find where you have played. Just a bit of history for you below:

Jeter played four seasons in minor league baseball, then known as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL). Jeter began the 1992 season with the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, based in
Tampa, Florida. In his first professional game, Jeter failed to get a hit in seven at-bats, going 0-for-7, while striking out five times.[19] Jeter continued to struggle during the rest of the season, batting .202 in 47 games.[12][19] Manager Gary Denbo benched Jeter in the season's final game to ensure his average would not drop below .200, known in baseball as the Mendoza Line.[20] Frustrated by his lack of success and homesick, Jeter accrued $400-per-month phone bills from daily calls to his parents.[18][19]

Unknown said...

And then the next year he played a full season at Greensboro and hit .295/.376/.394, and the year after that he hit .344/.410/.463 across 3 MiL levels. By the time he was 20, Derek Jeter was the MiL Player of the Year, the 4th best prospect in the game according to Baseball America, and was starting in Triple-A. If you're going to talk about Jeter as a prospect, talk about his whole body of work, not just a small rookie league sample size that supports your incredibly flawed point.

The bottom line is that this is how prospect evaluation works. You judge each individual player based on his individual makeup and performance. To use Derek Jeter as a point of comparison is unfair and unrealistic.

It's not a matter of demeaning dreams, it's a matter of being objective in your evaluation. That's what I tried to do and that's what this exercise was. Their coaches are there to give them positive injections, not me. It's a top 30 prospects list and when there are only 30 spots there are going to be players who don't make the cut.