Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More on Quad-A Players

A few weeks ago a number of extremely interesting articles were written all on the same topic, how to find cheap talent(i.e. Ryan Ludwick). Now, in these articles they refer to these types of players as Quad-A Players, but what really makes you a Quad-A Player? The writers of those articles used Quad-A to mean players that have excelled in the minors/AAA but cannot perform(because of small sample size) or are blocked at the Major League level. What it really means is a player that outperforms almost everyone in AAA but cannot survive in the MLB, even after given a whole season to prove himself. Now there's more. You also have to bring two other factors into the equation because these players might only be performing well because of them. a)age/experience and b)environment. These two factors always have to be taken into account because of the difference in the difficulty between AAA and the MLB. Veteran players will always put up better numbers in AAA than younger players because they've been around longer, meaning they've seen most pitchers and have played in most parks, thus giving the older guys the advantage.

A real good minor league player has to show a few qualities that are key in searching for hidden talent(not Quad-A Players, that's exactly what we don't want). LD%(Line-Drive Rate), BABIP(a BABIP more than 15 points higher than ones BA probably means that player's a fluke), a low strikeout rate, high walk rate and a high, pitches per PA Rate(the average amount of pitches one sees per PA). The latter three statistics show plate discipline which is a great tool for judging minor league talent because plate discipline you will always have no matter what league you play in because it is more of a skill than luck. Plate discipline is also extremely important at the major league level because if you wait long enough the pitcher will eventually make a mistake for you or for another teammate to capitalize on(look at last weeks Mets game against the Phil's where Daniel Murphy tired out the pitcher causing him to walk David Wright and let up a homer to Carlos Delgado). The first few stats determine how good the player actually is at hitting the ball. Another good stat to use to judge a player is HR/FB Rate because this gives you a little bit of insight on the players power stroke, like how many fly balls he hits and how many leave the park. A high average one year probably means the next year he'll have a low one and vise versa. We can also take common stats into account but we just have to remember to take nothing at face value and instead take 45 cents off of everything(adjust for league talent, ballpark, pitching and age). And now without further ado I'd like to present to all of you my own Hidden Talent(non-Quad-A) All-Star team that I've assembled in the early goings of this season. This group of players also includes young bench players in the MLB, also many of these players are playing now because of the September 1 roster expansion.

C: Kelly Shoppach-I have been in love with his stroke for two years now, and he's finally getting to show it off
1B: Jason Botts-playing in Japan owned by the Rangers
2B: Delwyn Young-was up and down with the Dodgers this season
3B: Ruben Gotay-I like his swagger and I believe he can be a decent player
SS: Brent Lillibridge-considered a top prospect but has fallen and is blocked by Yunel Escobar on the Braves
LF: Adam Lind-remember this was before the season! He is now doing great in the MLB
CF: Reggie Willits-bench player for Angels but has only had 80 ab's this years and is blocked by Torii Hunter
RF: Brandon Moss-traded to Pirates in the Manny deal, has supreme power and I believe he is the next Adam Dunn
DH: Juan Rivera-I believe, although older that Juan is a very good hitter and should be given a chance to play everyday
IF: Anderson Machado/Josh Barfield-similar type players both with great sticks
OF: Chris Carter-has great plate discipline
OF: Nelson Cruz-all the articles that I mentioned above were about Nelson Cruz, and I wrote this in the middle of April

SP: Brad Hennessey-was once a top prospect
SP: Chuck Lofgren-has a good repertoire with great command
SP: Jason Hammel-has great stuff, blocked by excellent pithcers in Tampa
SP: Jason Bergmann-quality pitcher with low 90's heat and a decent slider
SP: Hong-Chi Kuo-has good stuff, needs to locate better
6: JA Haap-an interesting project with a lively arm

Most of these players have taken part in my series called No Starting Gig which I basically ran through the pros and cons of the players listed above and mentioned teams which the player would be an upgrade for. There are a few updates necessary like replacements for Brandon Moss, Kelly Shoppach and Adam Lind and there are a few more intriguing young players out there that I 'd like to add. I would replace Kelly Shoppach with DELETED: Kaale Kaihiu(or something like that)who is a minor league catcher for the Royals and has posted really high home-run totals and walk rates along with a high OBP this year and looks very impressive. UPDATE: Kala Ka'aihue who catches for the AA Braves(I'm sorry that I mixed him up yesterday with his older 1B brother Kila Ka'aihue, I can't understand why I did that?) is a great hitting catcher who no one knows about. At AA this year he posted a .274/.412/.457(before adjustments) line which is extremely good for a AA catcher. He also has shown plenty power, hitting 14 homers and 23 doubles and last year had a career year with 22 homers and 20 doubles. As previously shown Kala hit .274 with a .412 OBP, this means that he walked %13.8 of his time at the plate an astounding number for a young player(23). With plate discipline and power Kala possess the two essential tools that translate to the MLB. Another impressive guy is Josh Whitesell who for two straight years has had an OBP over .420, but is 26 years old.

The pitching is more of a gut/scouting perspective than a statistical one. These guys are some of the non-famous pitchers that have made an impression on me for some reason or another(either having terrific stuff or totally ripping the Mets apart). What I'm trying to say is that there are many GMs in the MLB and even more holes in lineups that need to be filled in the offseason, why don't they fill them with the cheap high upside players instead of expensive players in decline to fill in. I've also been wondering how some GMs can repeatedly see division rivals pick up inexpensive talent and have them turn in a few terrific seasons while they themselves still shop for has-beens on the free agency market(yes, I'm looking at you Omar "oh yeah I was the one to sign Pedro and Billy to freakishly expensive long contracts but only manage to get 1+ good years out of them" Minaya). Guys like this(hidden talent type players) aren't so uncommon and can become very productive major league players.

Many of these kind of players have been picked up by Andrew Friedman(GM of Rays) and he has has fed off of them for the past 3 years while building his team through the minors. But if you look at the Rays, their two greatest power hitters are Carlos Pena and Eric Hinske both waiver-wire cheap additions(hidden talents). GMs should realize that free agency means paying a lot of money for players past their peaks while trading for hidden talent type players(or Quad-A Players) has less risk and more reward. Which one would you take? A declining veteran for $8-14 a year over 4-6 years or a guy that you'd have for the next 5-6 years at league minimum with a lot of upside. The new quick fix solution should be trading for these very good and useful young players while giving up nothing instead of spending a lot of money and draft picks on expensive declining veterans. These players are usually one dimensional but dominate those dimensions (i.e. Carlos Pena and hitting). This way you don't waste money and you can still build through your draft and farm system while also getting impact players for cheap. This guy Andrew Friedman is doing this right and everyone else should learn from him.