It is offseason time here in Phillies land. I will be writing this mailbag all offseason, so please send me all of your questions or suggestions and prevent my desperate pleading on Twitter. It's for the best.
Prospect Spotlight: Jonathan Guzman, SS
Guzman is not a player that I expect to see prominently ranked on prospect lists this offseason, but he is a player to be well aware of. Guzman turned 16 on August 17, 2015, and the Phillies gave him a $60,000 bonus to sign that very day. That made Guzman one of the youngest pro baseball players, and this year in the Dominican Summer League, he hit .300/.370/.346 with 21 walks against 25 strikeouts in 64 games. In addition to the youth and instant success, Guzman should be able to stick at shortstop.
The reason to not go crazy is that, at 6'0" and 155 lbs., Guzman simply lacks the strength to impact the baseball in a meaningful way. He is also going to play next year at 17, likely in the Gulf Coast League, which means he is an eternity away from the Major Leagues. That said, there is a lot to like about young shortstops with a good feel for contact and solid defense, and Guzman could be a breakout prospect down the road. For now, he is a name to be aware of.
I amn going to turn to Cot's Contracts for this. There are not a ton to sift through, so let's just run through them one at a time:
- Freddy Galvis (Arb 2): Galvis made $2,000,000 last year and I would expect a decent raise, but nothing that would make him overpaid for being the opening day shortstop.
- Cesar Hernandez (Arb 1): He is your opening day second baseman and he will probably still be a bargain, even if he is entirely frustrating.
- Jeanmar Gomez (Arb 3): Gomez made $1.4M last year and will see a raise, but not as much as he would have gotten without his late-season collapse. If it is under $4M, I could see him back for sure.
- Emmanuel Burris (Arb 3): He is gone.
- Cody Asche (Arb 1): I don't know if Asche is definitely back next year, but they can offer him arb and not have it be guaranteed. He won't make much, considering he got demoted to Triple-A this year.
- Darin Ruf (Arb 1): Ruf is out of options, I don't see how he has a spot on this team going forward.
- Luis Garcia (Arb 1): See Ruf, Darin
I am going to answer this from the point of view of player evaluation.
Hitting: BB%, K%, AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+/OPS+
Yes, I use triple slash lines. With those first five stats, I can derive almost any metric I want and give you a fairly accurate description of the player. Walk and strikeout rates allow me to get a feel for BABIP (are they high or low K in relation to batting average). I threw in an adjusted stat (and you can choose your favorite here) just because, at a glance, it allows you to align what you derived from the over metrics into a league and park adjusted context.
At this point I don't trust WAR or Statcast stats enough to use them as more than a rough separator, and even that is unreliable. The real key is I think players come in a lot of different forms of success, and even when a player is not ideal or maximizing more valuable stats (OBP for example) there is room for Major League success.
Pitching: BB%, K%, HR/9, GB%
I don't like FIP, but there is no denying that walks, strikeouts, and home runs are a big driver of success. If there is one stats campaign I will go on is that we should kill K/9 and BB/9 in favor of K% and BB%, being efficient can make your K/9 and BB/9 look worse. Ground ball rate tells me whether the pitcher generates weak contact. If you want to throw in ERA or RA/9 I won't begrudge you, but with those four basic metrics you derive a lot of what you need to know about a pitcher.
Defense: Trust nobody and nothing but your own eyes.
Baseball America's Top 10 in 2003:
- Gavin Floyd
- Chase Utley
- Marlon Byrd
- Taylor Buchholz
- Cole Hamels
- Ryan Madson
- Anderson Machado
- Ryan Howard
- Elizardo Ramirez
- Zach Segovia
Gavin Floyd had just powered through Lakewood, a year removed from going in the 1st round (#4 overall). Cole Hamels had just been drafted, Utley was 24 and had only hit .263 (well .263/.352/.461) after jumping from Hi-A to Triple-A and Madson was still a starter and had gone 16-4 in Reading. Howard had just finished up his first full as a 23-year-old in Low-A and he hit well, but a .280/.367/.460 line is really underwhelming given his pedigree and level (for reference, in 2015, 5th-rounder Rhys Hoskins hit .319/.395/.518 across Low-A and Hi-A at age 22). In terms of Top 100, Floyd was #9, Utley #81, Byrd #63, and Buchholz #88.
Using hindsight, Utley was obviously way too low, and that was based on underappreciation of his skillset. And I have no clue what people were thinking on Hamels (he would jump to #17 overall a year later). Without hindsight, the current group is better than that group. I would take Crawford over Floyd, Utley vs Alfaro is a fun conversation, but then Moniak is better than Byrd, and Williams, Kilome, Quinn and others are better than the next group minus Hamels. If you want to go back and say the top of the 2003 group was better, that is fine; the 2016 group just has a ton more depth. The Howard equivalent (Hoskins) won't make the Top 10 for the Phillies this offseason, and even if you want to say the equivalent is Cozens, it's the same thing. If we just look at the GCL arms at the back of their respective lists, in 2003 it was Elizardo, who was a low 90s, control-oriented 20-year-old. Now, that guy is Sixto Sanchez, an 18-year-old throwing in the mid-to-upper-90s, while also not walking anyone.
Now, if we are going to bet outcomes, it is hard to bet on the whole 2016 group matching just Utley in output, let alone Utley and Hamels together, but that is hard for anyone to do. I do think we have also gotten better at player evaluation and valuing some prospects more accurately, which makes this whole exercise that much more difficult.