How well will Tyler O'Neill hit?

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  • #74834
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    Bob Reed
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    Firstly, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family, football, and food.

    I realize that Tyler O’Neill was the presumptive topic here, but I’m going to go beyond Tiny Kingman (or Canadian Khris Davis if you prefer). In this post I want to present a best estimate of prime production for many Cardinal prospects, as well as a few of the younger guys who’ve already exhausted their rookie eligibility. This is just for the hitting, mind you; defensive positions can change (Elehuris Montero and Nolan Gorman and Malcom Nunez won’t each be Redbird third basemen after all), and moreover the quality of any player’s glovework is of course generally more difficult to measure than their batting prowess. So we’ll just stick with hitting.

    (Skip to the bottom to know the future. Or continue with me on this enchanting voyage of discovery. If I were you I figure I’d probably skip ahead, then double back later for the methodology stuff. Wouldn’t blame you a bit.)

    For this exercise I’ve made liberal use of Clay Davenport’s website, where you may find minor league stats and MLB translations for everyone above the Gulf Coast and Arizona “complex” rookie leagues. Clay Davenport for those who don’t know him, was a co-founder of Baseball Prospectus more than 20 years back. He’s had his own excellent site for 7 or 8 years now.

    I’m not going to pretend that this is particularly scientific. But I did examine as many Cardinal prospects as possible from the past 20 years or so, 25 batters in total, who eventually had at least 600 or so career plate appearances in the majors, and compared their MLB hitting lines to their Davenport Peak projections, to see what patterns emerged.

    (Four prospect busts were by necessity excluded due to their miniscule or non-existent major league stats: Bryan Anderson, Daryl Jones, Joe Mather, and Zack Cox. That’s unfortunate for sure, as omitting the “worst” hitters somewhat skews the results. But I don’t think 4 busted batters versus a substantially larger sample of 25 will really skew it THAT much. In any case, call this a casual and possibly predictive study of Cardinal prospects – with the proviso that it is only applicable to those who log at least 600 major league trips to the plate.)

    In alphabetical order, the 25 Cardinal prospects included Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Aledmys Diaz, J.D. Drew, Chris Duncan, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Randal Grichuk, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Eli Marrero, Yadi Molina, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Albert Pujols, Colby Rasmus, Shane Robinson, Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, Donovan Solano, So Taguchi, Brett Wallace, and Kolten Wong.

    I wanted to see how well Davenport’s computer model had performed at predicting the prime of each of those 25 Redbird hitters. Understand that for my own purposes here, I arbitrarily defined “prime” as the player’s best 3-year stretch in terms of raw OPS. This was just easiest, by far. An OPS+ or wRC+ would have been much more work, and I didn’t set out to publish a SABR-worthy study in the first place.

    Davenport calls his hitting lines “Peak Projections” and to be honest I don’t know if he defines Peak as the player’s expected best single season, best 3 or 4 or 5 years averaged together even if non-consecutive, or what. But in this particular context it doesn’t matter how Davenport defines a player’s peak or prime; that’s irrelevant to what I’m doing here. I’m just going to take his numbers and apply them to my parameters, to see how well his Peak projections have predicted the best 3-year performances of Cardinal hitters. Let me offer an example of the methodology.

    (Just 90 seconds more reading until the fun part.)

    Based on the entirety of his minor league career, Jon Jay was predicted to have a Davenport Peak Translation OPS of .720. His actual best 3-year stretch has been a .773 OPS, so quite a bit better than his Davenport Peak projection. And as I checked other players, I found this was a pretty strong pattern in general. The best 3-year MLB chunks were markedly better than Davenport’s forecast, more often than not.

    So I decided to also look at the very best single projection for each prospect, i.e., the Peak projection based solely on their best minor league season (with a reasonable sample size of a couple of months or more). Staying with Jon Jay, his best Peak Translation was a .792 OPS in 2010, the year he was called up. Obviously that .792 is much closer to his eventual 3-year best of .773 than the .720 was.

    So I got to thinking, what about seeing how Cardinal hitters performed in the majors, relative to the midpoint between the minor-league-career-based Peak Translation and the single-season best Peak Translation? For Jon Jay, that midpoint – let’s call it his Davenport Midpoint — would be the average of .720 and .792, or a .756 OPS. So Jon Jay with his 3-year prime of .773 exceeded his Davenport Midpoint by 17 points of OPS.

    I don’t know how well I’ve explained myself, I feel like I’ve rambled a little. So for clarity I’ll do one more quick example then show the overall results. Eli Marrero was projected very very well by Davenport’s computer. Based on his entire minor league career, the Peak Translation was a .820 OPS, and based on his best single season, in the South Atlantic League at age 20, his Peak was a stunning .880 OPS. (Would’ve been nice for a catcher, huh?) I’m no math genius, but I can see that Montero’s Davenport Midpoint is .850. Well, Eli’s best 3-year stretch was a mere .794 OPS. Good, but not nearly as good as predicted, at 56 points below his Davenport Midpoint.

    (We are getting to the fun part very soon. Promise.)

    Of the 25 Cardinal minor leaguers in the study (and admittedly I use that term loosely), 14 of them had 3-year MLB primes that were worse than their Davenport Midpoints, and 11 were better. (Not surprisingly, no one’s MLB prime matched his Davenport Midpoint precisely.) So 14 below and 11 above. Now here’s the cool thing. The 14 below were worse than their Midpoints by an average of 27 OPS points, but the 11 hitters above their Midpoint exceeded it by an average of 37 points.

    Put it all together, and those 25 prospects had 3-year OPS primes in the major leagues that averaged just .001 OPS above their Davenport Midpoints. Can’t get much closer than that.

    So the Davenport Midpoint becomes our best prediction for the young current Cards in the majors and minors. Well, the Midpoint plus 1 point of OPS. And this brings us to the part you’ve been waiting for, if you’re still here. The primes of the prospects, plus a few others.

    Tyler O’Neill .941 OPS
    Nolan Gorman .931
    Elehuris Montero .859
    Randy Arozarena .836
    Carson Kelly .824
    Paul DeJong .819
    Dylan Carlson .819
    Harry Bader .795
    Lane Thomas .790
    Ramon Urias .785
    Andy Young .783
    Yairo Munoz .778
    Andrew Knizner .776
    Evan Mendoza .776
    John Nogowski .751
    Tommy Edman .730
    Edmundo Sosa .723

    Some of these feel too high, I know. And what seems too good to be true, usually is. But again, this is NOT a career forecast by any means, but merely the collective BEST 3 years in a row. A couple of them seem too modest, also. But for me, having crunched and re-crunched the numbers, I fully accept the above as quite solid estimates for each batter, and furthermore I would need to be given a compelling reason to expect much more or much less in the way of prime production.

    #74835
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    forsch31
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    It would be interesting to see the projections of players like Mather, Cox, Jones and Anderson just to see how he rated some of the more highly regarded prospects that didn’t make a difference. That might be even more telling about how to regard his projections.

    #74857
    jj-cf-stl
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    The Carson Kelly / Paul DeJong rankings simply confuse me.

    I have Carson as the next Tony Cruz, and evaluations like this make me wonder what glaring, obvious skill set I’m missing.

    #74858
    Brian Walton
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    I have no idea how Davenport’s projections are created, but if he is doing thousands of minor leaguers, it is likely formula-based, rather than scouting-based.

    In his entire career to date at any level, Kelly had an OPS higher than the .824 “best three-year projection” shown above just once. At Memphis in 2017, he came in at .834 before backsliding this season. Maybe the formula weighted his 2017 strongest, because prior to that, his best showing was just .740 (at Double-A in 2016).

    My question is if a player hasn’t done it for a prolonged period in the minors, why should he be projected to do it in the majors for a sustained period? Maybe if the player was young without a longer time playing and/or was rushed, but Kelly is 24 years old now.

    #74897
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    gscottar
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    That is a lot of research Bob. Kudos to you for taking the time to do it.

    But based on the eye test and some rudimentary stats I am going to remain in the camp that Tyler is Grichuk 2.0 until proven otherwise. I hope your projections are accurate though because if they are then Tyler could be our starting LF in 2020.

    If he is Grichuk 2.0 then he will just be a 4th OF.

    #74922
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    Bob Reed
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    Thanks for all of the comments and questions, gentlemen! It might be a bit tedious but I’d like to address each piece of feedback in turn.

    Forschy opined:
    “It would be interesting to see the projections of players like Mather, Cox, Jones and Anderson just to see how he rated some of the more highly regarded prospects that didn’t make a difference. That might be even more telling about how to regard his projections.”

    Not a bad idea. Let’s look at the Davenport Midpoint projections for that prospect quartet.
    Zack Cox was projected at a fairly dismal .715 OPS, lower than every current prospect cited above, including shortstops Tommy Edman and Edmundo Sosa. No smart team is going to play a third baseman whose best years are below average at the plate. So no surprise that he never made it.

    Bryan Anderson was forecast for a .767 Midpoint, or slightly behind where Andrew Knizner is now. But Anderson as a Cardinal minor leaguer was a poor defender with a net of -22 runs defensively per Clay Davenport, and even worse at -31 runs at Baseball Prospectus. So it’s not hard to see why Anderson didn’t get much opportunity in the majors. (Andrew Knizner, oddly, is -11 runs at BPro for his career, but a fine +8 at Clay Davenport’s website. Definitely far ahead of Anderson with the glove…the question is, how much.)

    Joe Mather’s was the strongest projection by far, with a Midpoint of .860. His MLB debut was fine, with a .780 OPS at age 25 over a third of a season. But nagging injuries over the next several years generally hit him pretty hard, and I don’t think that being used as relief pitcher in the April, 2010 marathon game versus the Mets helped him either. We know for a fact that it injured Felipe Lopez, the other position player who pitched in that debacle. Thanks, LaRussa! (Tony allowed his relief pitchers to bat for themselves in extra innings with the bases loaded and two outs. Twice. Why didn’t he pinch-hit, with the game on the line? Because he “didn’t want to run out of pitchers.” Of course, by not pinch-hitting, not trying to score and end the game, LaRussa’s idiotic strategy eventually led to the very thing he was trying so much to avoid: position players pitching.)

    So I would attribute Joe’s disappointing career to injuries as much as than anything else. I do have a theory that unusually tall batters might lose their swing mechanics or bat speed more easily than other hitters, or at a younger age, but I haven’t researched it systematically at all. Joe was around 6′ 5″ or so I think. Anyway it’s just a theory, based on underperformers like Ben Grieve, Jeremy Hermida, Hee Seop Choi, Jason Heyward, and a few others.

    Finally we come to Daryl Jones, whose Davenport Midpoint was a solid-but-unspectacular .780 OPS. I liked Jones a lot back when he put up a great partial AA season. But I should have paid much more attention to his defensive numbers, which were quite poor at Clay Davenport (-19 runs) and an outright disaster per BPro (-41). With glovework like that, mostly in an outfield corner rather than centerfield, it’s hard to envision a lineup spot or bench role. (In my defense, I’m not sure that BPro had minor league defensive values on their website a decade ago. Maybe they did, but I don’t know.)

    I would say that IF there is a lesson to be learned, Forschy, it’s to scout the defensive statline as well as the batting numbers. (Don’t listen to Keith Law, kids. Always scout the statline.)

    Moving along,
    jj-cf-stl stated:

    The Carson Kelly / Paul DeJong rankings simply confuse me.
    I have Carson as the next Tony Cruz, and evaluations like this make me wonder what glaring, obvious skill set I’m missing.

    Carson Kelly has been a huge disappointment in his limited MLB stints, no one can deny. But “limited” is the operative term here. Let’s check what he’s done over meaningful sample sizes in the upper minors, compared to Tony Cruz.

    Tony Cruz got his first shot at AA at age 22, and batted .220 with a smelly 72 wRC+.
    Carson Kelly played at Double-A at age 21, and posted a quite solid wRC+ of 115.

    Tony Cruz was in Memphis at ages 23 & 24, and managed a combined 73 wRC+.
    Carson Kelly played for Memphis at age 22 and posted a wRC+ of 120. Again, I won’t praise in any way Carson’s pitiful MLB performance. But the evidence is strongly in his favor that he won’t turn out like Tony Cruz, if given ample opportunity.

    As for the straight-up comparison with Paul DeJong, Carson was competing at a younger age at every single level of the minors, much younger in some cases. For instance, Carson was initially at Peoria at age 18, while DeJong debuted there at 21. Overall, Kelly’s previously cited AA and AAA wRC+ numbers were very close to DeJong’s at the same levels, and Carson had the better plate discipline markers, to boot. So I’m not too surprised that he projects as well as DeJong does.

    #74925
    Ratsbuddy
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    All of these bapigs and wr+c and udr and opi numbers, etc, etc, just make me shake my head.

    Bottom line is O’Neill strikes out too much to be a regular. Or pretty much even a sub. Send him back to Memphis and tell him to cut down on his strikeouts so he only Ks about 20% of the time and then its a different story. Unless, of course, along with 175 strikeouts he hits .330 with 40 homeruns.

    r/Rat

    #74927
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    Bob Reed
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    A mister Brian Walton remarked:

    I have no idea how Davenport’s projections are created, but if he is doing thousands of minor leaguers, it is likely formula-based, rather than scouting-based.

    In his entire career to date at any level, Kelly had an OPS higher than the .824 “best three-year projection” shown above just once. At Memphis in 2017, he came in at .834 before backsliding this season. Maybe the formula weighted his 2017 strongest, because prior to that, his best showing was just .740 (at Double-A in 2016).

    My question is if a player hasn’t done it for a prolonged period in the minors, why should he be projected to do it in the majors for a sustained period? Maybe if the player was young without a longer time playing and/or was rushed, but Kelly is 24 years old now.

    I am 99.9% sure that there are zero scouting reports involved in Davenport’s projections. I think he would say that, as with all projection models for minor or major leaguers, his numbers exist to provide a wholly objective and emotionally indifferent complement to conventional scouting reports.

    As for Carson Kelly’s MLB numbers exceeding his minor league ones, I would again cite his extreme youthfulness at many of his minor league stops. (I believe there’s an argument that he was in fact rushed, at least a little, in the lower levels, and that this may have hindered his hitting development.) Also, and I think this might be quite consequential, I would note that Carson was learning the craft of catching for his first few minor league campaigns. He himself has said in interviews that he did not work much on hitting until he reached the AA level, and felt comfortable spending less than 90% of his time on framing/pitch-blocking/game-calling/pitcher whispering.

    In any case I can think of a couple other players whose 3-year MLB peaks far outdid their minor league best season. Yadi and Albert each surpassed their best single season minor league OPS by more than 80 points of OPS over their 3-year major league prime. To meet his Davenport Midpoint, Carson Kelly on the other hand merely needs to come close to an OPS he’s already posted in AAA, at age 22. I don’t think that unreasonable — although as with Yadi, it may not happen until his late 20’s.

    Lastly, GScott graciously said:

    That is a lot of research Bob. Kudos to you for taking the time to do it.
    But based on the eye test and some rudimentary stats I am going to remain in the camp that Tyler is Grichuk 2.0 until proven otherwise. I hope your projections are accurate though because if they are then Tyler could be our starting LF in 2020.
    If he is Grichuk 2.0 then he will just be a 4th OF.

    Well first off, why can’t everyone on the internet say such nice things to me, or send money? And second, I am glad you mentioned Grichuk alongside O’Neill, GScott, because I’ve seen that comparison a LOT lately, especially within the e-pages of the Post-Dispatch. So you’ve presented a needed opportunity for a side-by-side. (They were born in late June and mid-August, so the comparisons are even more convenient than they’d otherwise be. It’s a bit harder when guys are born half a year apart, and you’re comparing age-relative-to-league. But no such complication with these two outfielders.)

    They each posted pretty gaudy numbers at a young age in the lower minors, but there’s not much reason to get into that, as we have large sample sizes for both in AA/AAA to look at.

    Randal played in AA at 21 and was solid, batting .256 with a 116 wRC+ and a 3-1 strikeout/walk ratio.
    Tyler toiled in AA at age 20 and was fantastic, at .293 with a 152 wRC+ and a 2.5-1 K/BB ratio.

    Randal was in Memphis at 22, where he hit .259 and slugged .493, with a nearly 4-1 K/BB tally.
    Tyler was also there at 22, but he batted .311 and slugged .693. His K/BB remained roughly 2.5-1.

    Here’s a pretty cool fact. Grichuk had that 116 wRC+ in AA, and his AAA number was 102. Average those together and what do you get? A wRC+ of 109, which just happens to be exactly what he has posted at the MLB level through his first 4 seasons. I don’t even dare to do the math for O’Neill. It’d give me goosebumps.

    It’s worth mentioning that this huge year for Memphis didn’t come out of nowhere. Tyler O’Neill was a consensus top prospect when the Cards traded for him from Seattle in 2017 — #36 at MLB.com, #38 for BA, and #53 at BPro. Then he was better than ever in 2018. But specifically, how great was O’Neill in 2018?

    When it comes to Triple-A baseball, the Pacific Coast League has been around since 1946, as has the International League. The now-defunct American Association existed from 1946 to 1997. If you add it all up, well, that’s a lot of AAA seasons. Nearly 200 all told. And in all of those AAA seasons, only two batters age 23 or under have ever posted an isolated slugging of .380 or better.

    1959 Willie McCovey .387
    2018 Tyler O’Neill .382

    This doesn’t mean that he will BE the next Willie McCovey. In fact I’m sure he won’t be. But it means without a doubt, without room for reasonable debate, that Tyler O’Neill possesses a very rare gift for regularly hitting baseballs very, very hard. This is not a guy whom you block with Dexter Fowler or Jose Martinez. Far as I’m concerned anyway.

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Avatar Bob Reed.
    #74929
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    Bob Reed
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    All of these bapigs and wr+c and udr and opi numbers, etc, etc, just make me shake my head.

    I was gonna do bapigs, udr and odi in the next post, but now I just won’t bother. 😉

    Don’t fret over strikeouts, Rat. Lou Brock fanned a lot, and so did Reggie Jackson and many, many other Hall Of Famers. In fact, Reggie might roughly be Tyler’s best case scenario. Tiny Reggie, we’ll be calling him in 4 or 5 years. We can even create a candy bar for him. And YOU can name it!

    When it comes to hitters, focus on the production, not the other stuff. Or as my mom likes to say, concentrate on the doughnut, not the hole.

    #74930
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    Cardinals27
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    Given a good spring training, or a free agent signing, I would prefer O’Neill to start in right. I believe he will show improvement next year, and at least be ready for 2020 when/if Ozuna departs.

    #74931
    Brian Walton
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    Bob Reed said:

    In any case I can think of a couple other players whose 3-year MLB peaks far outdid their minor league best season. Yadi and Albert each surpassed their best single season minor league OPS by more than 80 points of OPS over their 3-year major league prime.

    The most extraordinary of exceptions do not make the rule. I very sincerely hope that Kelly earns the right to one day be mentioned in the same sentence with Albert and Yadi. However, I will not be holding my breath, as that is a Hall of Fame tall order.

    FWIW, an average MLB starter is my optimistic ceiling for Kelly at this point, which is where I will peg him when we get to him in the top 50 countdown.

    P.S. In 2018, the average NL catcher slashed .237/.316/.381/.696.

    #74933
    Brian Walton
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    Bob Reed said:

    I am 99.9% sure that there are zero scouting reports involved in Davenport’s projections. I think he would say that, as with all projection models for minor or major leaguers, his numbers exist to provide a wholly objective and emotionally indifferent complement to conventional scouting reports.

    I agree with that. However, any projections may be “objective,” but they are only as good as the formulas used to develop them. I would hope that he tuned his formulas by comparing them to real results. As several have mentioned, some of these numbers seem overly optimistic. But time will tell.

    Minor League Equivalencies were a hot topic some years ago, but I’ve seen little about them lately. That was another attempt to project minor league results into major league expectations.

    #74937
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    Bob Reed
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    Thanks for the additional feedback, Brian and C-27.

    “I would hope that he tuned his formulas by comparing them to real results. As several have mentioned, some of these numbers seem overly optimistic. But time will tell.”

    Well, Davenport’s been doing it for more than 20 years. And I can report that I’ve found his projections quite useful. I know there was a lot to wade through in my initial lengthy “methodology” post, a thicket of thoughts to whack through. But I think it illustrated the historical accuracy of Davenport’s Peak Projections in general — if we agree that the “Peak” can be defined by a player’s best 3-year OPS stretch in the majors.

    Again, quick summary for those who didn’t choose to do battle with my sometimes dense writing. Over the past 20 years or so, of the 25 Cardinal prospects who later had any sort of remotely meaningful MLB career, their composite OPS for their best consecutive 3 seasons almost exactly splits the difference between the Davenport Career Peak and Davenport Best Single Season Peak. That’s 20 years of real results, for 25 Redbird prospects.

    “The most extraordinary of exceptions do not make the rule. I very sincerely hope that Kelly earns the right to one day be mentioned in the same sentence with Albert and Yadi. However, I will not be holding my breath, as that is a Hall of Fame tall order.”

    I agree, sir. I agree in every respect, with no caveats or conditions. Which is why I did not in any way argue that “the most extraordinary of exceptions make the rule.” At least that wasn’t my intent.

    But maybe my meaning wasn’t as clear as it could have been, in the previous post. What I said or meant to say was that both Yadi and Albert had 3-year career MLB peaks that far outdistanced in terms of OPS any given single season they had in the minors. They are two outliers, and their mere existence indirectly implies that anyone who falls far short of them is therefore NOT such an outlier himself.

    More specifically, Yadi’s best minor league single season OPS was .759. His MLB 3-year prime was 83 points higher at a collective .842. Big outlier, and that’s not what we’re asking of Carson Kelly. Albert had a .953 OPS in the minors and a best MLB 3-year stretch 129 points higher, at 1.084. Bigger outlier. Those are extremes, of course. But I didn’t say then or now that I expected Carson Kelly to be like them, to be markedly better in the majors than he was during his best minor league season.

    Carson Kelly does not even have to exceed his best minor league OPS at all, much less clobber it by 83 or 129 points. As you pointed out, his best minor league OPS was in AAA at age 22, when he posted an .834. His Davenport Midpoint is 10 points below that. No best-case scenario required, not even close.

    Now. With all of that said, like yourself I actually feel that Kelly will fall short of that .824 prime. Not by a ton, perhaps 20-25 points of OPS. And I think Knizner will surpass the .776 of his forecast. My gut tells me that Arozarena is too high, Tommy Edman too low, and that Nolan Gorman and Lane Thomas will fall short of their Midpoint by 15 or 20 points. Of course, the effect would be radically different; 20 points of OPS could keep Thomas from being an MLB starter, but it won’t keep Gorman from stardom. (Yes, Gorman committed too many errors in his pro debut, but he also turned double plays at a rate that would make Graig Nettles and the Boyer boys blush.)

    Some guys will exceed their Davenport Midpoints, and some will of course fall short. Some by a little, some by a lot, in both directions. But the broader point, the important point to me, is that based on everything we know, everything that has happened over the past two decades, there is no reason to think that the Cardinal prospects like Gorman and Montero, and young MLB players like Bader, DeJong, and O’Neill will collectively over-or-underperform those OPS numbers by any meaningful amount.

    Those numbers are the best guess. Carson Kelly’s .824 is his best guess. Because the past is the best predictor of the future.

    #74959
    bicyclemike
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    Without digging in to the predictive process, it seems Kelly is way over-rated while DeJong is a somewhat under-rated. I think DeJong’s peak will be better, while Kelly may never get the 600 ABs. But then that is hard to know, as perhaps he will “catch” a break at some point, get some regular time in at the big league level, and become a good player.

    As for O’Neill, who knows how his career will go. But it gets down to a simple decision – the guy has world-class power. When you have a guy like that, you have to give him a chance to play. You put up with the holes in his game, and let him get steady playing time and see what he can do. He will either learn, and blossom into a great player, or at least much better than average, or he could bust. But if you do not give him that shot, you could miss out on someone special.

    For 2019, play him in right field every day. Do not micro-manage him and try to fit him in here or there, just play him. Let him strike out 40% of the time if it goes that way, but play him and see what he looks like in July, then September. See if he is making better contact as the ABs are regular. You have to know what you’ve got with this guy, and the only way to do that is let him play.

    We are in an era of strikeouts. They are going to happen, but do not focus on that so much with a player of O’Neill’s skills to where you do not see anything else he brings to the plate.

    #74964
    Brian Walton
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    For those wondering what to buy ratsbuddy for Christmas, I found the perfect item.

    #74972
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    gscottar
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    It sounds easy to say “just play him and let’s see what we have” but I think it is more complex than that. The Cardinals are a team that has missed the playoffs three years in a row and the fan base is sick and tired of finishing behind the hated Cubs. I don’t think this is the time to roll the dice and see what happens. That is what we have done the last three years and it didn’t work. We need more certainty which means going with proven players. If Tyler tears it up in spring training then let him play and see how it goes but I don’t think we are in a position to sit on our hands while he strikes out 40% of the time in the regular season. And sorry to the advance analytic minds of some of you but I don’t agree that a strikeout is the same as any other out just like I don’t believe that any player off the street can close out the 9th.

    #75008
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    Bob Reed
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    “I don’t think this is the time to roll the dice and see what happens. That is what we have done the last three years and it didn’t work. We need more certainty which means going with proven players.”

    I must beg to differ, GScott. I think it’s the other way around. I would argue that the Cardinals have failed over the past few years because they have tried too hard to get certainty, have acquired far too many “proven players” who in fact had little upside, were too long in the tooth, or both — THAT’S what stopped the team in 2018. They failed to make the playoffs because they failed to trust their own players and pitchers, and mistakenly sought certainty from without.

    Dexter Fowler. Luke Gregerson. Brett Cecil. Greg Holland. Those four by themselves destroyed the 2018 Cards.

    Replace their at-bats and innings with Bader/O’Neill/Hudson/Poncedeleon and the team wins 8-10 more games. So-called veteran certainty is never remotely certain, so I say instead go for the upside. Even if it costs a lot less money, and provides less glamor. Fans want big free agent signings. I get it. But the smartest moves aren’t always headline-grabbers.

    I said loud and long two years ago in these very web-pages that Fowler was a HUGE mistake, said it over and over, and I specified that Harrison Bader was going to be every bit as good as Fowler during Fowler’s 5-year contract. But Bader was not a proven major leaguer then. He was just a guy who’d dominated college and A-ball and Double-A. So nobody listened, right here at this website. No one believed in Bader.

    Oh, a few other folks weren’t completely in love with the Fowler signing, but nobody believed in Bader. Nope, gotta have that guy with the World Series ring, gotta have that certainty, that proven-ness. You know what’s gallows funny, and terrible, and an indictment of the American public education system? Over at Fangraphs there are still numerous fans rationalizing the idiotic and self-destructive Fowler signing. I kid you not. Let us hope the Cards never ever make a mistake like that again. No more Fowlers, or Tino Martinezes, or Mike Leakes, or Juan Encarnacions. Only pay big bucks for big talent.

    I’m imploring you now, my fellow Redbird fan (and you guys too, Mo and Girsch and Shildt if you’re out there), please listen to BikeMike. Tyler O’Neill is a ballplayer who needs to play, every day. He is a talent.

    #75009
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    Is the problem that they acquired veterans, or that they acquired the wrong ones? How many are “necessary” and how many are too many? How can one be sure either way – until afterward, when it is too late? I’d love to see the magic formula, but it does not exist.

    Case in point. No one could convince me the 2018 Cardinals would have won anywhere near 88 games without veteran additions Miles Mikolas and Bud Norris, two guys that before the season none of us expected much of anything from.

    #75026
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    gscottar
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    Bob, I guess it depends on how you define proven. Guys like Fowler, Cecil, Gregerson, Leake, and Holland had proven that they were average to above average players at best. That is the problem with recent Cardinal acquisitions. We get average players that produce average results that yields an average record.

    I’m saying that to break the cycle we are going to have to get an elite player or two. I’m not talking about going crazy and having a $250M payroll but we are going to have top buy some certainty if our farm system isn’t producing certainty. O’Neill seems like a far from a sure thing to me and the stakes are too high to miss the playoffs for a fourth year in a row.

    #75030
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    Cardinals2016
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    That is the problem with recent Cardinal acquisitions. We get average players that produce average results that yields an average record.

    I think the problem is that we are acquiring relievers coming off bad years, then expecting them to magically turn around in a Cardinals uniform as they did when Dave Duncan was our pitching coach.

    Dave Duncan is no longer our pitching coach, so we have to start acquiring relievers who can actually pitch.

    #75035
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    Bw52
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    I think that Rats and some others dont consider is that ONeill has improved every year at a different level.Why not think that he can not continue to do the same at the big league level? He showed signs of improvement each time he was called up and got regular playing time.Remember he was just 22 when he first came up to the Cards in April.Each time he was brought back he did a little better.He has been and likely will always be a somehat streaky hitter.IMHO it is completely foolish and premature to just rashly state that he won`t work out because…..Using Rats logic then Bob Gibson would have never gotten a extended chance because of his control issues.Some folks seem to expect instant stardom and seem somewhat impatient with some players.

    #75036
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    Bob Reed
    Participant

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    “Case in point. No one could convince me the 2018 Cardinals would have won anywhere near 88 games without veteran additions Miles Mikolas and Bud Norris, two guys that before the season none of us expected much of anything from.”

    Agreed 100%, Brian, those were excellent signings. But the key is, they did not just “turn out” to be excellent signings. They were excellent signings before the season even began — because the dollars/years were controlled, shrewd, nothing like the Leake/Cecil/Holland/Gregerson signings. There was upside with both Mikolas & Norris, and more importantly virtually zero risk of their blocking better guys, if they failed.

    Bad signings involve so much money, and so many years in some cases, that the player is almost guaranteed to keep playing regardless of how terrible he becomes. THAT’S the primary hazard with bigger contracts. It’s not the cost in dollars that kills the team. It’s the excessive emotional commitment, the deranged need to play the awful player/pitcher even when they stink.

    This is why Bader was benched for Fowler when Mike Shildt took over. Think about that. The team’s overall best outfielder at the time, benched for maybe the league’s worst player. The front office had to trade Tommy Pham just to get Bader back on the field. (And of course the trouble goes even deeper than that. Right now the Cards would have much more room on their 40-man roster if they just cleared the dreck that they’ve signed in free agency over the past 2 years.)

    “O’Neill seems like a far from a sure thing to me and the stakes are too high to miss the playoffs for a fourth year in a row.”

    Tyler O’Neill is indeed far from a sure thing. No argument there. But so is almost anyone you could name, including Bryce Harper, who’s had three sub-2 WAR seasons in his last five, per Baseball-Reference. But one is going to cost 500 thousand, and one of them is going to cost 350 million. Embrace the bargains, GScott, because they leave much more dough for other needs.

    And maybe even leave enough dough to bid on Mike Trout in a couple of years. If you’re gonna dream, dream big. Trout is exactly twice the player Harper is, and will likely cost only 40-60% more than Harper. Trout could become the highest-paid player in history, and STILL be a great deal for the buyer. That’s how much of a generational talent he is. (By the way, I don’t know why the stakes are any higher this year than other years. The stakes are always high for the Cards. The fans always expect a contender.)

    “Dave Duncan is no longer our pitching coach, so we have to start acquiring relievers who can actually pitch.”

    Ain’t that the truth. I don’t know exactly why Lilliquist was fired 12 months ago after six years of conspicuous success with both starters and relievers, but Mike Maddux certainly failed with the bullpen, especially Greg Holland, while Lilly turned Holland immediately back into the dominant guy he was with Kansas City. It was maddening to see. Here’s a painful refresher!

    Holland with Maddux: 25 innings, 56 baserunners, 28 runs, and a 22/22 strikeout/walk ratio.
    Holland with Lilly: 21 innings, 19 baserunners, 2 runs, and a 25/10 strikeout/walk tally.

    I suspect Holland was tipping in St. Louis. (Just like Luke Weaver.) It certainly wasn’t improved health or velocity in Washington that accounted for Holland’s transformation. Heck, his velocity was slightly higher in St. Louis, for both the slider and fastball. Man I miss Lilliquist.

    Finally, I want to say I agree with every word of yours, BW52.

    #75039
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    mudville
    Participant

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    What fascinating posts there are on this thread!

    #75050
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    Bob Reed
    Participant

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    I’m with you, Muddy. I’m very gratified to see the smart, civil responses here. Thanks, everyone. As far as I’m concerned this website is the majors and the P-D and VEB are AAA and AA for fan commentary. Fewer ideologues here, and less free-floating rancor.

    However, there’s one thing bugging me. I’d intended to tack on an observation to the end of my initial essay, a postscript of sorts; but as my posts are wont to do, it went on much longer than anticipated. So I chose to wait. Then I forgot about it for several days. Blame it on excessive tryptophan intake. Anyway I remembered just now, so here goes.

    Recapping, these are the projected major league OPS performances for current Cardinal minor leaguers. Not their projected career MLB numbers mind you, just the OPS estimate for the very best 3-year stretch, based on the 20-year major league track record of 25 Cardinal prospects. Some of these forecasts are pretty sexy. But even if these gaudy OPS numbers here prove 100% accurate, that does not necessarily imply stardom. (Bear in mind, Ryan Ludwick for example posted an excellent .862 during his 2007-09 years, and he was certainly not a star. Okay, he was. But only for one season.)

    Nolan Gorman .931
    Elehuris Montero .859
    Leandro Cedeno .851
    Randy Arozarena .836
    Carson Kelly .824
    Dylan Carlson .819
    Lane Thomas .790
    Ramon Urias .785
    Andy Young .783
    Andrew Knizner .776
    Evan Mendoza .776
    John Nogowski .751
    Tommy Edman .730
    Edmundo Sosa .723

    Those numbers are quite impressive, I’d say. (Apologies to Leandro Cedeno, who was inadvertently omitted from the initial list. How do you forget a guy who hits .336/.419/.592?) The Cards could definitely use a lot more pitching prospects, but they’re pretty rich in hitters.

    What I wanted to add earlier, though, was that numerous teenage Redbird prospects not listed above might have every bit as bright a batting future as the ones who are there. I’ll just note the best.

    Here are the most dominant 2018 hitting performances of some 17 and 18-year-old Cardinal farmhands, expressed in wRC+. (Sorry, Rat. Had to use wRC+ because (1)there’s no such thing as OPS+ for the minors, (2)raw OPS can mislead because some minor leagues have much more offense than others, and (3)believe me, no one here wants to see anyone’s offense described by wOBA. I don’t. You don’t. Everyone don’t.)

    Malcom Nunez 238 wRC+
    Joerlin De Los Santos 174
    Jhon Torres 163
    Ramon Mendoza 162
    Ivan Herrera 160
    Adanson Cruz 145

    To be blunt I’m not crazy about Adanson Cruz’s bat, though. Cruz struck out too much for the DSL, and as you can see he wasn’t quite as outstanding in general at the dish — not compared to the others. But I felt compelled to mention that Cruz, per Baseball Prospectus, put up some tremendous defensive numbers in 2018. Micro-sample, yes. Lowest rung of the minors, you bet. But good numbers are always better than bad numbers. And his glovework numbers were (your overwrought superlative here).

    #75076
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    gscottar
    Participant

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    I’ve tried to type a longer reply here but it won’t post for some reason.

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Avatar gscottar.
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