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Can These Sox Prospects Cross the Threshold?

2010/03/30

I don’t assert to have a fraction of the expertise that the fine gentlemen at Future Sox have, but I put together a quick reference of the minimum batting requirements for the system’s top hitting prospects to be a standard, everyday big leaguer. This is based on their position and defensive skill, and it allows you to be the judge on whether the prospect in question has what it takes with the bat.

The average player is worth 2 wins above a replacement level. Replacement level makes up much of what the Double and Triple-A hitters are competing against now. Naturally, prospect rankings aspire to separate the men from the boys, the players with major league talent from the career minor leaguers. I’ve chosen to just look at the consensus top 8.

When I say “average big leaguer”, some might see that as a slight, but a 2 WAR player typically costs anywhere from $7-$9 million dollars per year on the free agent market. For the first three years, the team-controlled player receives about 1/20th of that salary per year. As they become eligible for salary arbitration in years 4-6 of team control, they receive a healthy raise, generally 40%, 60% to 80% of their what their value would be on the free agent market. All told, the team-controlled player that is simply your average starter provides a surplus of about $30 million. That’s $30 million a team can spend on other needs.

Some of these players may end up producing well above average. Again, this is just the floor for a player to give that surplus. In order to read this table, you will need to be enlightened in the art of WAR. You can read up on it here and here. This is per 150 games, except for catchers. They are set at 120.

Name Pos. Def. Adj. Repl. Proj. Def. Hit Req. for 2 WAR wOBA
Jared Mitchell CF 2.5 20 0 -2.5 0.333
Tyler Flowers C 10.5 17 -5 -2.5 0.333
Dayan Viciedo 3B 2.5 20 -4 1.5 0.341
Jordan Danks CF 2.5 20 -6 3.5 0.345
C.J. Retherford 2B 2.5 20 -5 2.5 0.343
Brent Morel 3B 2.5 20 5 -7.5 0.327
Josh Phegley C 10.5 17 -10 2.5 0.343
Miguel Gonzalez C 10.5 17 5 -12.5 0.314

A little further explanation: The defensive projections are from CHONE, so you’re quibbles aren’t with me if you have any. Danks has a good defensive reputation, despite not having the hottest of seasons according to Total Zone last year. Viciedo isn’t expected to stay at third, but he is projected to be better than advertised.  Mitchell, Phegley and Gonzalez were all guesstimates of mine based on their scouting reports. I wasn’t real sure where to put Mitchell, his speed definitely could make him a plus at CF, but for now I’ll just put him down as average.

After looking at this table, how convinced are you that these players can hit these marks? I’d say Tyler Flowers feels the safest, as long as his defense doesn’t go backwards after going forward this past season. Even if he slips, his bat is probably good enough to make up the difference.

Morel doesn’t have to be a world-beater with the bat to be an average third baseman. If he’s Mark Teahen with a better glove, he’ll be just fine. The problem is Mark Teahen will be standing in his way by the time he’s ready.

As I said in advance, I’m not an authority on Sox prospects, but the rest of this group surely has some question marks. Mitchell of course is tools galore, but is raw, raw, raw, and missing an entire season certainly doesn’t help. His ultimate upside is well above 2 WAR per year, but ambiguity abounds. Viciedo is enigmatic, and moving to 1B means his offensive threshold goes up, unless he can pick it like Pujols.

Gonzalez and Phegley are years away, so it’s hard to feel confident about either, but a few bad months from Phegley and a few good ones from Gonzalez in the low minors tells us very little.

If you think Total Zone has Danks all wrong, that he’s more of a +5 defender, then like Morel, he only needs to muster a .324 wOBA to be at least average. He definitely has the upside to do that and beyond.

Hopefully this gives you a clear-headed view on the team’s hitting prospects and their value. From here you can counterbalance the upside question with the confidence question for these prospects, and rank accordingly from there.

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