Zach Crizer is an author at Baseball Prospectus and one of our many knowledgeable analysts who doesn't write about prospects or fantasy.
Zach Crizer: Hey everyone, I'm flipping on Brewers-Astros, and we can get started.
Don (Chicago): This is a non-fantasy question for fantasy: I focus on the statlines when it comes to minor league guys. Production is king to me. A former buddy of mine relies mainly on scouting reports and writeups about prospects to educate himself on minor leaguers coming up. In the world of traditional and advanced stats, what could I be looking at to fill the gap between what I' seeing now vs. what my former buddy reads in scouting reports?
Zach Crizer: Well ... first of all, hopefully the stats vs. scouts debate didn't cost you a friendship! They can co-exist!
Scouting reports are obviously a huge part of what we do at BP, and our prospect team is always going to have a much better understand of what a player's minor league stats ENTAIL. There are league context issues and development plans and such that they are much more well-versed on.
That said, if you want to focus on the stat lines, I'd recommend drilling deeper and focusing on strikeout rates, walk rates and spray charts more than the results. You'll get a better idea of how a player's approach is or isn't working from those more process-based stats. If you have a 19-year-old still growing into his body but constantly commanding his at-bats, you have some idea that, for example, power may increase with his muscle mass. Hope that helps.
Lonnie (San Diego): Machado just a .265 .330 .450 guy outside of Camden?
Zach Crizer: The OBP may not be too far off. His career OBP is .335, and he's always been an aggressive hitter. His career slugging percentage is .481, though, and that's weighed DOWN by less powerful early seasons. Despite a slower power start this year, I wouldn't be quite ready to attribute that much of a bump/decline to the change in venue. It's especially tricky given the questions of how the ball will play at any given time, but I'd still lean more toward Machado putting up a slugging percentage that starts with a five, or something very close to it.
sportsguy21792 (madison): What is your take on all the HRs being hit this year? Juiced baseball, hitter approach or poor pitching. Does MLB like this or will something be done in the future to curtail it?
Zach Crizer: Speaking of: The dingers.
Ah, the dingers. BP's Rob Arthur has published evidence the ball is very aerodynamic again, and certainly contributing to the elevated homer pace. https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/48260/moonshot-the-baseball-is-juiced-again/
I also wrote about who is appears to be benefitting from this latest spike. https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/48809/circle-change-whos-hitting-the-extra-dingers/
Is there an element of hitter approach in there? Yes. Teams and players are optimizing for power, and are only being encouraged by the nature of the ball this year as they were in 2017. But the greatest factor is the ball. I couldn't really guess whether MLB likes it, other than to say that commissioner Rob Manfred has cited murky research that fans like homers. I would bet that the league, like everyone else, wants an exciting brand of baseball that doesn't constantly spark conversations about how to "fix" it. I don't think the league (or perhaps anyone) really has the competence or power to bend it to their will, however.
BG (Sea): Luis Castillo: ace, No. 2, or something else?
Zach Crizer: The Reds ace is a bit of a personal favorite, so I'm going to try to restrain myself. I think his stuff is electric and this season has been a huge positive development. It's possible new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson has helped him find a consistent approach that will eliminate some of the inconsistencies that tripped him up for stretches of previous seasons.
That said, he's still very reliant on that changeup and on getting hitters to swing at things they absolutely shouldn't. Perhaps a cop-out, but I'll say he's an ace (a top 15-20 starter in the game) in several seasons, but maybe not locked into that status.
Dodo (The ground): Is Nate Pearson the best pitching prospect in the upper minors? What is his major league ETA?
Zach Crizer: His 24 2/3 innings this year are already a career-high as a pro, so I'm very not ready to make that proclamation, but he's certainly impressive. With Forrest Whitley having some issues, there are questions in that "upper minors" group, but I'd still lean toward the greater certainty of A's lefty Jesus Luzardo or perhaps even prized Marlins acquisition Sixto Sanchez ...
Carl (Florida): Sixto and Zac Gallen get most of the publicity, but am I crazy to think Edward Cabrera is the Marlins best pitching prospect?
Zach Crizer: Cabrera definitely looks like a promising project for a Yankees-influenced Marlins development staff. It's still quite early, though, and he's really not in the same prospect universe as Sixto at the moment.
Dusty (Colorado): Thoughts on Wander Javier? What's his upside?
Zach Crizer: Hello Dusty.
bpalee (DC): Great article on Bell! Going back to the Pirates, what happened to Cole Tucker? Is he also going to be a late developer?
Zach Crizer: Thanks for reading!
Self-plug for those who haven't read it: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/50564/circle-change-so-josh-bell-is-a-monster-now/
I think the most basic takeaway is the Tucker will require some adjustments to catch up with major league pitching, and that he might not be one to flip the switch on them right away. He struggled at High-A before taking off on a repeat engagement. He spent a full season at Double-A without posting an above average batting line by DRC+. And he's only had 70 plate appearances at Triple-A. So, perhaps not a late developer, but certainly a more deliberate one.
bob m (pa): Brian Reynolds looks like a "player" and he's obviously off to a great start----but the Pirates outfield is very crowded right now!
How good do you think Reynolds can become and how do you think the Pirates outfield situation shakes out as the season moves on and we approach the trade deadline? Thx.
Zach Crizer: Sticking with the Pirates and a much rosier rookie performance. He's having a TON of success on batted balls, which means a thing that I don't really need to spell out for you. With a contact rate that doesn't top the charts, you'd like to see him build on decent K/BB numbers to support that good OBP -- which he also had in the minors. I'd expect a good amount of power pullback in the immediate future, but a league-average-ish bat that can play center is worth having. If the Pirates decide their chances of contention are slim, I'd say they'll probably make Reynolds' experience a priority and look to move on from Corey Dickerson.
Peter (Durham, NC): I know Mike Soroka is not Greg Maddux. With that said, is Mike Soroka the closest thing we've seen to young Greg Maddux in a long time? I can't think of another young pitcher this good with the type of command-over-stuff with perfectly decent stuff profile that's come along in the recent past.
Zach Crizer: It gets really tricky to try and peg "command over stuff" guys. I recently wrote about Kyle Hendricks, and he certainly fits the bill of a top-level starters -- seriously, go look at Hendricks' numbers -- who is doing it without eye-popping velocity. But no one is touching Maddux numbers except for the Max Scherzers of the world, and it's a bit too early to give Soroka that type of label, either. His results HAVE however been amazing and I love the way he pitches.
The visual of Soroka's two-seamer and slider is one of the game's great illustrations of the concept of tunneling -- of which Maddux was an important proponent -- and a joy to watch as hitters guess and fail. Could he keep up some sort of level to be an elite pitcher? Yeah, I'm beginning to think it's possible. But Maddux-ian numbers and performance take a long time to establish. For now, the aesthetic similarities will have to be enough, but feel free to relish them. It's very fun.
Mike (Dover): Hypothetical (with the knowledge that progress is not always linear): a guy is struggling in A+ 4 years ago is now dominating in his 2nd year in the majors. Throwing aside the fact that every player's struggles are unique to them, what's the most likely statistic (under or overlying) from his time in A+ that would portend future success at higher levels?
Zach Crizer: Well, the BEST stats to get that picture aren't really public, but for a hitter I'd want to see exit velocities to judge quality of contact, and then discipline stats such as chase rate to understand how a young player is identifying and processing pitches. The latter are possible to take a guess at via strikeout and walk numbers, but it's imperfect.
For pitchers it's a similar story. You'd love to know how often a young guy is missing bats when they swing. But you're usually going to have to make due with strikeouts and walks. Use the percentages, specifically, to understand how dominant they are. Striking out a ton of hitters and walking relatively few hitters is just about the best formula you can project, whether the ball is flying in the bigs or not.
Zach Crizer: Thanks for stopping by everyone. We'll do it again soon.