Saturday, April 09, 2005


The Future...Now?

The Red Sox mid-levels have some really good prospects in them, with players like Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Moss, Jon Papelbon, and hopefully someday Charlie Zink. I thought it would be interesting to constuct a team comprised of current young Red Sox players, a few Paw Sox players, and a couple of Portland Sea Dogs, and then gauge its performance using some projections.

C - Kelly Shoppach (C-)
1B: Ian Bladergroen (B-)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (B)
SS: Kenny Perez
3B: Kevin Youkilis
LF: Brandon Moss (B+)
CF: Hanley Ramirez (A-)
RF: Chris Durbin

SP#1: Jon Papelbon (B+)
SP#2: Jon Lester (B)
SP#3: Abe Alvarez (B-)
SP#4: Anibal Sanchez (B)
SP#5: Charlie Zink (go knuckleballer go!)
SP#6: David Pauley (C+)
SP#7: Manny Delcarmen (C+)

The grades are from John Sickels' latest prospect book, and since I trust his judgment, I'm excited about all the B-range players in the system.

I put seven starting pitchers, thanks to the wonderful TNSTAAP (Theres No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, another Sickels' invention) making me nervous about not all of these guys reaching the majors for one reason or another.

Just wanted to create a starting 9 and a rotation of prospects and younguns for the Sox. If I wanted to push it I could throw Bronson Arroyo in the rotation, but by the time this team would actually be realistic Arroyo would be over 30; not exactly a youngun anymore.

As far as the lineup goes:

1) Dustin Pedroia (Projected VORP of 31.7 for 2005)
2) Kevin Youkilis (.271/.383/.415 PECOTA projection for 2005)
3) Brandon Moss (hit .422 .339 in Augusta last year for a EqBA of .294...his .422 in Sarasota was a .373 EqBA)
4) Ian Bladergroen (.293/.336/.496 EqBA/EqOBP/EqSLG in the Sally League last year)
5) Hanley Ramirez (Excellent defensive player; will a switch to CF increase his value as a Sox?)
6) David Murphy (PECOTA isn't optimistic after two-subpar minor league campaigns: .231/.289/.327)
7) Chris Durbin (BP says defense is the key to his value, and there is nothing wrong with that if you hit a little)
8) Kenny Perez (Pressure from below after failing to develop more power or patience)
9) Kelly Shoppach (Shoppach probably curses the Varitek contract daily at this point).

Kenny Perez is here because I was only talking about Double-A and Triple-A players; Luis Soto is a talented shortstop prospect who will spend time in the lower levels of the minors this year.

You take the core of this team: Pedroia-Youkilis-Moss-Bladergroen-Ramirez and fill in the rest with free agents or guys like Durbin and Shoppach who are available and have strengths, and you will have yourself a pretty good team. Add a mix and match rotation from the 7 starters listed above and you are good to go.

Let's take a look at the core hitters projected performances using the weighted mean VORP scores:

Pedroia: 31.7
Youkilis: 18.1
Moss: 90th percentile of 18.6...not his time yet. Another season and Moss' score should greatly improve.
Bladergroen: 9.6
Ramirez: 6.9
Durbin: 0.0 VORP at 75th percentile, 9.0 at 90th.

Pedroia: 37.9
Youkilis: 12.1
Moss: 3.6
Bladergroen: 10.5
Ramirez: 10.0
Durbin: 4.9

Serious improvement for Durbin, Ramirez, and Moss, with additional improvement from Pedroia.

Pedroia: 44.1
Youkilis: 15.4
Moss: 5.3
Bladergroen: 14.4
Ramirez: 13.2
Durbin: 5.3

The reason these numbers remain so low (besides Pedroia) is because players like Moss and Bladergroen had their breakout seasons last year and PECOTA deals with the past three seasons to determine worth. If Moss and Bladergroen are able to build on the previous years success you will see great improvement in the VORP department. Pedroia's projection makes me giddy, even if it is based on a small sample size. It would be great to see him live up to it, even if I'm not so sure he will. Just know I'll buy a shirt the day they are avaible just incase. Durbin's VORP is low since most of his value is tied up in his defense, but if he can play above replacement level with great outfield defense it would be a plus, unless of course another Sox outfield prospect takes the spot more effectively. I can always check in on performance again next year to see what improvements have been made and link to this article.

As for the pitchers VORP:

Papelbon: 13.5
Lester: 7.8
Alvarez: 14.4
Pauley: No PECOTA Card
Delcarmen: No PECOTA Card
Zink: 1.7
Sanchez: 15.8

Papelbon: 11.0
Lester: 5.9
Alvarez: 10.3
Zink: 2.5
Sanchez: 12.0

Papelbon: 12.4
Lester: 7.9
Alvarez: 10.0
Zink: 0.9
Sanchez: 10.4

Pitcher projections are kind of iffy, mostly because many pitchers breakout late, and these guys are all youngsters, and also because of TNSTAAP. As far as improving VORP, the sample size/playing time rules apply here as well as they do for the hitters.

Charlie Zink's VORP is so low across the board because he is a knuckleballer. He was on Baseball Prospectus 2004 Top 50 Prospects List, but got hammered in the minors. As he learns to better use his knuckler (which hopefully he will) you can expect to see a higher VORP out of him. Tim Wakefield went from being a rookie with lots of potential to released to Cy Young candidate to rotation filler to bullpen help to important cog in the rotation to #4 starter...and he has been throwing the knuckler for a lot longer than Zink. To put it bluntly, knuckleballers can be extremely erratic, and no one season should be used against Zink. With time he should improve just from repetition. The future looks bright for the Red Sox, and with Theo Esptein snagging low-cost high-reward free agent deals as well as opening the purse strings combined with the homegrown talent Boston has so sorely missed, they may be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come. Or atleast there is improvement, because it isn't Brian Rose. Not that the Sox have had trouble developing pitching during the entire Duquette Regime (Pavano, Armas, and Ohka are all good starting pitchers) but they never kept any of them. Hopefully that changes with the new guys.

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