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Top Tier Prospect Hitters Worth More than Pitchers?


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#1 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 10:10 AM

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.

#2 helloharv

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 11:41 AM

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.
The year to spend money was this past off-season.

It would have proved to the fans that Peter is willing to spend the MASN money and add some much needed EXCITEMENT to our team. This would have let the kids still come up and help build our team but it wouldn't have put all our eggs into one basket.

Next years Free-Agents Class is much weaker than this past years....so we will wait until 2011...then it won't be the right fit....then we will wait until 2012....and so on and so on and so on

#3 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 11:48 AM

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.

#4 helloharv

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 11:57 AM

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.
The year to spend money was this past off-season.

It would have proved to the fans that Peter is willing to spend the MASN money and add some much needed EXCITEMENT to our team. This would have let the kids still come up and help build our team but it wouldn't have put all our eggs into one basket.

Next years Free-Agents Class is much weaker than this past years....so we will wait until 2011...then it won't be the right fit....then we will wait until 2012....and so on and so on and so on

#5 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:14 PM

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?

#6 Stotle

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:16 PM

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.

#7 birdwatcher55

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:17 PM

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;)

#8 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:17 PM

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.

#9 Poor Yorick

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:37 PM

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?
Klaatu barada nikto.

#10 bmore_ken

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 12:42 PM

our track record on developing pitchers is not so good
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It has a nice sound to it

Suggs has signed. I've never been so happy to be wrong

Don't blame me, I voted Bob Barr:cool:

#11 Arthur Bryant

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 01:11 PM

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.
The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters. -- John Updike on Ted Williams's last at-bat

#12 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 01:15 PM

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.

#13 Stotle

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 01:18 PM

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.

#14 Arthur Bryant

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 01:37 PM

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.
The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters. -- John Updike on Ted Williams's last at-bat

#15 commish

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 02:00 PM

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?

#16 Stotle

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 02:03 PM

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.).

#17 ravnfan4life

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 02:59 PM

our track record on developing pitchers is not so good


Our track record on developing elite hitters is just as bad

#18 Poor Yorick

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 05:12 PM

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.
Klaatu barada nikto.

#19 sarasotosfan

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 05:34 PM

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.

#20 crawdaddy

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 05:41 PM

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.