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crawdaddy

Top Tier Prospect Hitters Worth More than Pitchers?

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I thought this might be of interest to some . . . it kind of, somewhat, a little contradicts MacPhail's approach to developing homegrown pitchers in that high draft picks might be better used on hitters and not pitchers. He is the blog en masse.

 

Prospect Evaluation

Victor Wang did a short piece for THT a day or so back pitting Matt Wieters and David Price against each other. Based on his work, he states that a top ten hitting prospect is worth about twice as much as a top ten pitching prospect. In older articles he had written, he has determined that elite hitting prospects are worth significantly more than elite pitching prospects. That this difference narrows, but stays throughout the top 100 listed prospects (i.e. BA; not draft position). He has mentioned that his most recent work, in the THT annual, that he now finds a shift in the 50-100 range in that pitchers are now favored.

 

What remains the same though is the greater projectability of top 50 positional talent. Now, the short piece he wrote states that Wieters is by far the more valuable prospect, but the questions as it pertains to the Orioles is greater. Andy MacPhail has stated that his organizational philosophy is to grow arms and buy bats. Some have pointed to this thought process as to why we selected Brian Matusz over Justin Smoak. It may make more sense to focus on bats at the top end of the draft and arms later.

 

Of course, this ignores the evaluation of the market for free agents. It also ignores to a certain extent positional worth. So, yeah, there are a lot of questions, but it does make some sense. Matusz, as we have mentioned here, is a pitcher with decent mechanics and very good secondary pitches. We have written that we would have selected him . . . and we maintain that opinion.

 

The key, draft-wise, is determining what value the player has. Is he a top tier pitcher or is he a top tier fielder? If you have a choice between them . . . it may make sense to lean toward the hitter while making up for this in the second and third rounds with pitching focused drafting. Comparing this perspective with the Orioles' selections and Camden Depot's selections:

 

Actual Orioles Selections

1. Brian Matusz, LHP

2. Xavier Avery, OF

3. LJ Hoes, 2B/OF

 

Camden Depot

1. Brian Matusz, LHP

2. Tim Melville, RHP

3. Roger Kieschnick, OF

 

Wang-Inspired

1. Justin Smoak, 1B

2. Tim Melville, RHP

3. Tim Murphey, LHP

 

It might be interesting to keep track of these separate top 3s.

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Further proof that we should have drafted Smoak ;)

 

 

I actually tend to think you develop pitchers and buy your elite proven hitters. But when you haven't had a great 1st baseman in a decade and you have nobody in the minors and we weren't going to make a Legit offer to Tex, why not draft Tex's younger version??? We already have numerous pitching prospects but almost zero hitters after Wieters.

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Further proof that we should have drafted Smoak ;)

 

 

I actually tend to think you develop pitchers and buy your elite proven hitters. But when you haven't had a great 1st baseman in a decade and you have nobody in the minors and we weren't going to make a Legit offer to Tex, why not draft Tex's younger version??? We already have numerous pitching prospects but almost zero hitters after Wieters.

 

I think there is always a decent chance that a bat will not develop as well as it should and if the prospect starts at first base . . . his bat has to play there. There is risk in that. I can understand why someone would not go in that direction. If Smoak was a third baseman with that bat . . . I think you would have to take him. He probably would have been taken before our slot if that was the case.

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I think there is always a decent chance that a bat will not develop as well as it should and if the prospect starts at first base . . . .

 

Curious as to why you say this? It would seem that 1st base would be one of the easiest positions to play in the minors.

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Curious as to why you say this? It would seem that 1st base would be one of the easiest positions to play in the minors.

 

Well, it has nothing to do with defense. First base is the easiest position to play in general. That being true, it requires a certain amount of production with the bat. If a 1B prospect's bat falters . . . he has nowhere to go but the bench. For a 3B . . . if his bat falters, that is OK because he may still be able to field. Or if his fielding fails . . . his bat still plays at first.

 

Does that make sense?

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Curious as to why you say this? It would seem that 1st base would be one of the easiest positions to play in the minors.

 

Since the defensive value of a 1B is the lowest of any position, the value of the prospect is based primarily on his bat. So, if his bat fails or under-develops there is little value left. Likewise, if he cannot handle 1B defensively, there is really no easier position to shift to, which would also limit his vaue.

 

If Smoak were a 3B, his defense would provide more value, taking away some of the pressure of his bat reaching max-potential. LIkewise, were he to struggle defensively he could potentially move to 1B or an outfield corner.

 

Finally, Smoak's bat profiles well at 1B, but even better at other positions since 1B has the highest average offensive production level of any position. Again, his value would be slightly higher if it were coming from a different position.

 

None of this is to say that Smoak won't be valuable if he continues to hit at 1B -- just that he'd have more value at a different position.

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Further proof that we should have drafted Smoak ;)

 

 

I actually tend to think you develop pitchers and buy your elite proven hitters. But when you haven't had a great 1st baseman in a decade and you have nobody in the minors and we weren't going to make a Legit offer to Tex, why not draft Tex's younger version??? We already have numerous pitching prospects but almost zero hitters after Wieters.

You're making a much too intelligent observation my friend. You should be banned from this board;)

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Since the defensive value of a 1B is the lowest of any position, the value of the prospect is based primarily on his bat. So, if his bat fails or under-develops there is little value left. Likewise, if he cannot handle 1B defensively, there is really no easier position to shift to, which would also limit his vaue.

 

If Smoak were a 3B, his defense would provide more value, taking away some of the pressure of his bat reaching max-potential. LIkewise, were he to struggle defensively he could potentially move to 1B or an outfield corner.

 

Finally, Smoak's bat profiles well at 1B, but even better at other positions since 1B has the highest average offensive production level of any position. Again, his value would be slightly higher if it were coming from a different position.

 

None of this is to say that Smoak won't be valuable if he continues to hit at 1B -- just that he'd have more value at a different position.

 

Yeah, my rambling gibbledy gook was meant to read like this.

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A question: is it easier to accurately project hitting success or pitching success?

 

Let's say you have a pitcher and a hitter at the top of the draft, and they are equally regarded in their ability at their position. Is one a safer bet than the other? (And does this play into which is "worth" more?)

 

And does it matter where their "grade" is? In other words, let's say you have an A- hitting prospect and an A- pitching prospect. Can you make a safer choice between these two than you can make between a B hitting prospect and a B pitching prospect?

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This doesn't necessarily contradict the AM method. The gap between an elite hitting prospect and an elite SP prospect will be much narrower in several years if they both stay healthy and reach their ceilings.

 

To properly judge the AM method you would have to look at the value and availability of hitters and pitchers in the FA stages of their careers, because that's when he's talking about making his move on the hitters.

 

The fact that fewer pitching prospects make it through to successful MLB maturity means that the individual successes are rarer and therefore especially valuable, while hitting successes -- being more common -- are easier to obtain. This would suggest that the "swarm" approach of drafting talented arms en masse is a more effective strategy for stocking the rotation than rather than competing for the limited pool of successful established SPs.

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This doesn't necessarily contradict the AM method. The gap between an elite hitting prospect and an elite SP prospect will be much narrower in several years if they both stay healthy and reach their ceilings.

 

To properly judge the AM method you would have to look at the value and availability of hitters and pitchers in the FA stages of their careers, because that's when he's talking about making his move on the hitters.

 

The fact that fewer pitching prospects make it through to successful MLB maturity means that the individual successes are rarer and therefore especially valuable, while hitting successes -- being more common -- are easier to obtain. This would suggest that the "swarm" approach of drafting talented arms en masse is a more effective strategy for stocking the rotation than rather than competing for the limited pool of successful established SPs.

 

Right . . . it is about talent ID. The approach makes sense if you can actually recognize these guys.

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A question: is it easier to accurately project hitting success or pitching success?

 

Let's say you have a pitcher and a hitter at the top of the draft, and they are equally regarded in their ability at their position. Is one a safer bet than the other? (And does this play into which is "worth" more?)

 

And does it matter where their "grade" is? In other words, let's say you have an A- hitting prospect and an A- pitching prospect. Can you make a safer choice between these two than you can make between a B hitting prospect and a B pitching prospect?

 

You'd have to make as many variables as possible equal -- age/HS or college/value. Then, first round in particular hitters tend to be the safer bet. Once you progress further in the draft, the gap shrinks and in some cases shifts to pitchers being the safer bet to provide ML value. This is my own read/observation based on my understanding of the draft and the types of players targeted at the various stages.

 

One flaw with the approach Craw posted up top (in my opinion) is that it doesn't distinguish between age/level or strength/weakness of the prospects and prospect classes.

 

For instance, the current 2009 prospect class is pitching heavy up top with more "safer" bets than last year's class. In the draft, the top 15 or so is loaded with college arms. The study doesn't take into account that the value difference between prospect/draftee #1 and #11 varies every year, as does the value difference between each prospect in between. The 10th best hitting prospect one year may be worse than the 15th best another year.

 

I think it's an interesting read (the article, that is) but I don't pull any huge signifigance from it. The more analysts attempt to provide general "rules" for drafting/prospecting the more apparent I think it becomes that it's a process that must ultimately be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

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Right . . . it is about talent ID. The approach makes sense if you can actually recognize these guys.

 

I believe in being able to ID talent, certainly. But I have my doubts about being able to consistently ID those who will not crater due to injury or makeup. There's just too much that can pop up, especially with HS pitchers.

 

The pitchers in the BA 100 are usually college age. They have either been drafted out of college or they have at least a couple of years in the low minors. Either way, they have already been selected out to a certain extent.

 

To me it is more a numbers game.

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Before people on here have said that you don't draft for need, but that seems to be the argument for why some think we should have taken Smoak, or other IF prospects. In general, is not drafting for need a rule that teams follow?

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Before people on here have said that you don't draft for need, but that seems to be the argument for why some think we should have taken Smoak, or other IF prospects. In general, is not drafting for need a rule that teams follow?

 

The good teams, yes. Since the odds are generally stacked against baseball draftees, you always want to max-out your opportunity for success. Generally, that means taking the best player as you rate him (including current talent, ceiling, likelihood of failure value provided by skillset and position, etc.).

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our track record on developing pitchers is not so good

 

Our track record on developing elite hitters is just as bad

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You'd have to make as many variables as possible equal -- age/HS or college/value. Then, first round in particular hitters tend to be the safer bet. Once you progress further in the draft, the gap shrinks and in some cases shifts to pitchers being the safer bet to provide ML value. This is my own read/observation based on my understanding of the draft and the types of players targeted at the various stages.

 

One flaw with the approach Craw posted up top (in my opinion) is that it doesn't distinguish between age/level or strength/weakness of the prospects and prospect classes.

 

For instance, the current 2009 prospect class is pitching heavy up top with more "safer" bets than last year's class. In the draft, the top 15 or so is loaded with college arms. The study doesn't take into account that the value difference between prospect/draftee #1 and #11 varies every year, as does the value difference between each prospect in between. The 10th best hitting prospect one year may be worse than the 15th best another year.

 

I think it's an interesting read (the article, that is) but I don't pull any huge signifigance from it. The more analysts attempt to provide general "rules" for drafting/prospecting the more apparent I think it becomes that it's a process that must ultimately be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

 

Thanks. This is a very sensible response.

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I don't see this as a contradiction of AM's philosophy at all. That philosophy has not been translated into an ironclad rule though, otherwise they would not have signed Matt Wieters.

 

I agree with AM's approach, as the likes of a Matt Wieters is like catching lightning in a bottle. It just is against the odds to find a young hitter and a catcher to boot that has exelled at every level of competition in such a short period of time.

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I don't see this as a contradiction of AM's philosophy at all. That philosophy has not been translated into an ironclad rule though, otherwise they would not have signed Matt Wieters.

 

I agree with AM's approach, as the likes of a Matt Wieters is like catching lightning in a bottle. It just is against the odds to find a young hitter and a catcher to boot that has exelled at every level of competition in such a short period of time.

 

Maybe I need to restate this another way . . . MacPhail's strategy is a side argument with some overlap here. The key is whether or not one can reliably ID whether a pitcher can become a successful pitcher. Leading commercial scouts seem unable to do this . . . MacPhail's regime might be able to do this in a way to bring the most out of certain players.

 

Did that make sense? I seem to not be communicating well today.

 

The point primarily is that it may behoove a team to invest their high picks in offensive players and lower rounds on pitching. You would still be growing your own pitchers, but the difference will be where you pick these guys.

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You'd have to make as many variables as possible equal -- age/HS or college/value. Then, first round in particular hitters tend to be the safer bet. Once you progress further in the draft, the gap shrinks and in some cases shifts to pitchers being the safer bet to provide ML value. This is my own read/observation based on my understanding of the draft and the types of players targeted at the various stages.

 

One flaw with the approach Craw posted up top (in my opinion) is that it doesn't distinguish between age/level or strength/weakness of the prospects and prospect classes.

 

For instance, the current 2009 prospect class is pitching heavy up top with more "safer" bets than last year's class. In the draft, the top 15 or so is loaded with college arms. The study doesn't take into account that the value difference between prospect/draftee #1 and #11 varies every year, as does the value difference between each prospect in between. The 10th best hitting prospect one year may be worse than the 15th best another year.

 

I think it's an interesting read (the article, that is) but I don't pull any huge signifigance from it. The more analysts attempt to provide general "rules" for drafting/prospecting the more apparent I think it becomes that it's a process that must ultimately be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

 

Another question is how and whether the research that went into calculating the value of hitters was effected by the impact of steroids in extending their career life.

 

In pure logic, in order to know the value of a talent you must adjust for its useful life. The impact of steroids on performance may have been overblown in some respects, but I am persuaded that steroids speed recovery and thus extend careers. More stringent testing may negate that effect, and thus reduce the long-term value of free agent hitters.

 

The GMs during this off-season certainly seemed like they thought that way.

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Craw, I understand you.

 

I believe pitching prospects are easier to identify because their output is measurable with the velocity they achieve and the differential they have between pitches and the accuracy of their pitches.

 

There is no objective measure of a hitter to translate their talent into probabilities of success at the major league level and while they may be wildly successful at the Collegiate level, their statistics are a function of the quality of pitching they face.

 

So, if given a draft choice at any level, I think I'd stand a greater chance of success picking a pitcher.

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Another question is how and whether the research that went into calculating the value of hitters was effected by the impact of steroids in extending their career life.

 

In pure logic, in order to know the value of a talent you must adjust for its useful life. The impact of steroids on performance may have been overblown in some respects, but I am persuaded that steroids speed recovery and thus extend careers. More stringent testing may negate that effect, and thus reduce the long-term value of free agent hitters.

 

The GMs during this off-season certainly seemed like they thought that way.

 

What I saw happening more this off season was:

 

1) GMs actually valued defense

2) Aging effects were achknowledged

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Craw, I understand you.

 

I believe pitching prospects are easier to identify because their output is measurable with the velocity they achieve and the differential they have between pitches and the accuracy of their pitches.

 

There is no objective measure of a hitter to translate their talent into probabilities of success at the major league level and while they may be wildly successful at the Collegiate level, their statistics are a function of the quality of pitching they face.

 

So, if given a draft choice at any level, I think I'd stand a greater chance of success picking a pitcher.

 

That is certainly possible.

 

What I wonder is if we will see a great change in FA perspective from the GM end. Pitching has typically been overvalued in the past few years whereas hitting has been depressed in the market. This offseason saw a devaluation of hitting to a slightly greater extent . . . though it is narrower. Not sure if that will get smaller. If players begin to be valued similarly . . . I think going positional might make more sense, but that has yet been seen. Hitting still seems like a cheaper acquisition.

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I think GM's have done a horrendous job at valuing the guaranteed compensation level versus years of guaranteed service tradeoff. The worst offender is Brian Cashman.

 

In other words, the more service time a club agrees to buy, the lower the level of guaranteed compensation on a per annum basis should be in play because of the time risk.

 

There is no way in any world other than baseball the player with the highest compensation gets the highest number of years (A Rod).

 

MLBtraderumors had an article on FA service years and compensation up earlier today.

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