Baseball Scouting, Centerfielders And What Creates MLB Value
In 2009, Anthony Gose (ROTOscouting Report) became a personal favorite as a member of the Phillies organization. Three years later, Roman Quinn (Scouting Report) made hearts flutter as a member of the Williamsport Crosscutters. No organization drafts tools as early and often as Philadelphia and they’ve been a must see when it comes to baseball scouting. Its been a focus for years, but few have graduated from high ceiling talent to MLB contributor.
In 2010, Gose was dealt to the Blue Jays as a part of the Roy Halladay deal. He continued to develop as planned, producing above average offensive numbers into Triple-A while being young for every level. Then, a 2012 debut saw the left-handed hitter scuffle and he hasn’t been the same since. Strikeouts increased, walks dipped and Gose enters 2015 with the same offensive deficiencies displayed in 2012. With development stunted, Dalton Pompey (ROTOscouting Report) is now Toronto’s centerfielder of the future. But does this mean Gose has no value?
An often overlooked part of baseball scouting is what happens after evaluating a player at the park. At ROTOscouting, evaluators are trained to take scouting notes and compare those to actual player production. For example, an Anthony Gose whose had his share of adversity as a prospect accumulated 1.3 WAR in 2014 behind plus defense, speed and limited hitting ability. In fact, his .226/.311/.293 triple slash line was 27% below the league average.
For evaluators at the park, this means the players we previously viewed as high ceiling, extreme risk players aren’t so risky after all. The profile often results in an MLB player regardless of how the hit and power tools develop. It’s a fourth outfielder profile at worst. Plus, elite speed players can often be taught how to bunt and chop balls into the ground. Dee Gordon is a prime example of this. Scouts ridiculed the hit tool, he revamped the swing and slapped his way to a .289 batting average.
Royals centerfielder Jarrod Dyson was a key piece of Kansas City’s playoff run, accumulating 3.1 WAR behind plus defense, elite speed and below average offensive production.
In the most extreme example one can think of, Jackie Bradley Jr. was worth -.1 behind plus defense, above average speed and offensive production 53% below the league average.
For the record, defensive WAR valuations have been challenged here at ROTOscouting. However, bringing their validity into question had to do more with the fact all outfielders should be compared to centerfielders at a minimum.
Roman Quinn And Baseball Scouting
Just yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released its Phillies top-10 prospects list and Roman Quinn was excluded. This led to a lively, four against one discussion on Twitter where prospect team members defended the decision to leave him off against reason. Apparently, it was a hot debate as offshoots of the conversation popped up throughout the day.
A loose example used to defend the inclusion of Quinn was Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton. Hamilton accumulated 3.5 WAR as the fastest player in baseball behind elite defense and offensive production 21% below league average. The switch hitter was a better minor league performer than Quinn, but never had a major injury to deal with either. Having scouted both players within weeks of each other in 2012, the similarities are still obvious.
At the time, both played shortstop and not particularly well either. Each possessed game changing speed and the ability to dominate on the bases. Quinn had more pop and Hamilton showed a better batting eye and feel for contact. However, scouts watching the Reds prospect agreed the walks would dry up at the MLB level and scoffed at his swing from the left side. The players were close enough for me to write a piece entitled, “Roman Quinn: A Better Billy Hamilton?”
Two years have passed and Hamilton developed better than expected offensively, although the bottom did drop out of his walk totals. Roman Quinn sustained a major Achilles injury after missing time for a wrist injury. it’s safe to assume the Phillies prospect will never fully recover from so much lost development time at a young age, but Quinn returned in May, belting seven home runs and stealing 32 bases in 88 games. His producing at an above average rate in a pitcher friendly league was impressive for a prospect who missed a substantial amount of playing time. Plus, he’s still only 21.
If baseball scouting is about identifying MLB value, then Quinn should be on every radar — especially in a Phillies system void of impact talent. After all, Billy Hamilton was ranked in the top-100 four times by major prospect publications. Anthony Gose is a former top-100 prospect too. Even Quinn ranked as the 100th best prospect in baseball prior to 2013.
Six full seasons of baseball scouting (seven if one counts a few games in 2008) has taught elite speed, up the middle defensive chops and limited hitting ability equals a surprising amount of value in MLB. Advanced statistics supports this. From Ender Inciarte to Terrance Gore, the burners end up filling a big league roles in some capacity. Additionally, game changing speed makes up for defensive deficiencies like route running and a lack of arm strength because of a player’s ability to make up lost ground and cut down throwing distances.
Admittedly, few in the industry will lose sleep over Roman Quinn being left off a top-10, but when most organizations lack two fistfuls of big leaguers in the pipeline to begin with, it’s difficult to understand the rationale — especially in a poor Phillies system. Players with similar skill sets have a high probability of reaching MLB. And as teams look to exploit market inefficiencies through baseball scouting, they’ll be on the menu.
5 Nov 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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