The WAR Room: Performance-based rankings, #90 - #81
Major-league depth arms like Adams, Tomlin, and Tejeda headline part two of these rankings
Over the past three months, IBI rolled out the year-end rankings for every minor league affiliate in the Cleveland system. Next up, we will be running down the top-100 performers based on those WAR rankings, albeit with a slight twist.
Simply ranking each player based on the raw numbers would have some value, but not nearly as much as when the stats are adjusted for how old the prospect was compared to his minor league level. For example, older prospects like Anthony Gallas, who did well at 26 years old in High-A and Double-A, are downgraded, while younger prospects like Francisco Lindor, who did well at 20 years old Double-A and Triple-A, are upgraded (as if Lindor needed anymore help).
Naturally, if Gallas -- or anyone else in his situation -- continues to hit like he did in 2014, it will not matter that he was old for his level, and vice versa for young prospects. But overall, accounting for a player’s age relative to level is critically important for judging a prospect’s performance.
Before moving on to the honorable mentions of The WAR Room’s performance-based rankings, first some reminders on what these numbers are, their uses, and their limitations:
It is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.
But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.
As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.
Also, the lack of good defensive metrics for the minor leagues means we have to adjust for a range of defensive abilities. To account for this, I will give you each player's WAR with a qualifier: either poor-defense WAR for a poor defender (-10 runs below-average per 162 games), average-defense WAR for an average defender (0 runs per 162 games), or great-defense WAR for a great defender (10 runs above-average per 162 games).
Additionally, note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.
One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.
The 2014 year-end season in review for every affiliate is listed below:
- The Columbus Clippers hitters and pitchers
- The Akron RubberDucks hitters and pitchers
- The Carolina Mudcats hitters and pitchers
- The Lake County Captains hitters and pitchers
- The Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitchers and hitters
- The Arizona League pitchers and hitters
And here are the previous editions of these rankings:
Now, on to the rankings:
#90: Jared Robinson, RHP
Cleveland’s 11th round pick in this past year’s draft, Robinson put up some really nice numbers in the Arizona League, headlined by his 1.23 ERA (31 ERA-). A good chunk of his value came from his .230 BABIP (73 BABIP+) and not allowing a home run in 22.0 innings, but the recently-turned 20-year-old still had a good debut without the BABIP and home run luck. Though he pitched out of the bullpen in his professional debut, it seems that the organization will at least give Robinson a chance to develop as a starter in the years ahead.
#89 Richard Stock, C
Though he only played in 52 games in Low-A as a 23-year-old, Stock put together a decent season in that limited time. He is downgraded in these rankings for being an older guy in the Midwest League, but Stock did what he had to do when given an opportunity: he put up numbers. Stock does not walk very much (3.0 percent walk rate, 36 BB%+), but thanks to some decent pop (.152 isolated power, 128 ISO+) and a controllable 20.3 percent strikeout rate (97 K%+), the catcher has some offensive value. He will need to force his way into more reps, but there are some encouraging signs for Stock even if he was not a priority starting catcher in 2014.
#88 Enosil Tejeda, RHP
Though he does not have exciting raw stuff and is getting a little old for a minor league prospect, Tejeda continues to simply put up stats and get results. With an equal 3.23 ERA (81 ERA-) and 3.23 FIP (81 FIP-), Tejeda is easily above average and someone worth keeping an eye on. Time will tell if the 25-year-old can maintain his 26.3 percent strikeout rate (138 K%+) without elite stuff once he gets a major league chance, but given that Tejeda has never struggled at any level of the minors (2014 was actually his worst season), it is possible the right-hander is just someone who can do more with less.
#87 Taylor Murphy, OF
The Mahoning Valley outfield in 2014 was a pretty impressive thing, with Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen making great professional debuts. Zimmer and Allen were not alone, however, as Cleveland’s 18th round pick in Murphy also put up some very nice numbers, including a .730 OPS (108 OPS+) and 11.9 percent walk rate (156 BB%+). Since Murphy is a college draft pick who will play next year at 22 years old, he will need to hit the ground running in Lake County in order to avoid falling off the prospect map (a la Logan Vick this past season). For now, however, Murphy is off to a great start and will look to continue it in his first full professional season.
#86 Grant Hockin, RHP
Making his debut as a 18-year-old in the Arizona League, Hockin pitched like an All-Star in 21.0 innings. Naturally, 21.0 innings is not a large enough sample to draw anything from, but anytime your second round pick can pitch like that during his draft season, you take it. Especially given how Hockin is seen as someone with projectable velocity still in need of filling out his frame, watching the right-hander put up results early on in his career is nice. He is not someone likely to start off on a full season roster and is pretty far from Cleveland, but Hockin is definitely on the right track.
#85 Josh Tomlin, RHP
As a prospect in these rankings, Tomlin is heavily downgraded for only throwing 40.0 Triple-A innings as a 29-year-old. But in terms of his overall value, Tomlin’s 2.30 ERA (56 ERA-), 4.08 FIP (101 FIP-), 22.3 percent strikeout rate (115 K%+), and 6.8 percent walk rate (77 BB%+) in Triple-A combined with 104.0 innings of a solid major league performance with decent peripherals make him an interesting guy for 2015. Given Tomlin is 30 years old and is best used as a depth starter, the right-hander is not a massively valuable asset, but he is someone who can pitch out of a the back-end of a major league rotation and not embarrass you.
#84 James Roberts, 2B/3B
Roberts was slightly above-average in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, but those two stats leave out the hole in the recently-turned 23-year-old’s game: his lack of power. In 117 games, Roberts only had 13 extra base hits, which gave him a .042 isolated power (42 ISO+), easily the lowest in the organization among batters with a significant amount of playing time. Making a ton of contact with a solid on-base percentage gives Roberts a decent amount of value for 2014, but unless the infielder discovers some power soon, it will be hard for him to avoid being overpowered by pitchers in the upper levels of the minors.
#83 Mike Zagurski, LHP
Zagurski left the organization in late May -- moving on to the Blue Jays -- but the left-hander never stopped putting up stats in 2014. Even though he was a 31-year-old in Triple-A, Zagurski still put up numbers on par with David Robertson’s 2014. Of course, Zagurski did it in Triple-A and has never managed to find success at the major league level, but it is not hard to believe the left-hander will not get another chance in the future after playing with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan for 2015.
#82 Austin Adams, RHP
On the other side of the coin, Adams is not heading off to Japan for 2015 and is firmly in the major league picture for Cleveland. The 28-year-old’s major league debut did not go well, but Adams’ Triple-A results in 2014 point to a better future for the right-hander. Adams still got his strikeouts (24.3 percent strikeout rate, 125 K%+) and started throwing the ball over the plate more consistently (7.5 percent walk rate, 85 BB%+), a combination that should play in the years to come. It has not come through in Cleveland just yet, but Adams projects to be just fine.
#81 Dylan Baker, RHP
Baker’s first outing of the season was a perfect, 18-up, 18-down six innings, but the right-hander suffered a broken ankle while the field for his second start, an injury that set the right-hander back in 2014. How much he was affected by the injury following his return is unknowable, but what we know for certain is Baker’s strikeout rate slipped to 13.9 percent (70 K%+), his results were a little below average (4.05 ERA, 103 ERA-; 4.37 FIP, 111 FIP-), and the 22-year-old missed out on a ton of reps in his second full professional season. Baker still has time to establish himself, but the right-hander will need to hope fate spares him in 2015 and lets him stay on the mound and get some much-needed reps.
Next week we will tackle #80 through #71, which features more young 2014 draft picks making their debuts and some older players pushing their way toward Cleveland.
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