Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Finding the next Carlos Quentin

Last year Chicago traded for an outfielder by the name of Carlos Quentin. At the time he was coming off a major injury, and he'd lost his place in the crowded Arizona outfield. In what now looks like a brilliant move, Kenny Williams acquired Quentin for a solid 1B prospect in Chris Carter. Quentin rewarded Williams' faith by hitting 36 homers, driving in 100 and giving the White Sox lineup an unexpected boost during the season.

Quentin is a prime example of how players stocks can change in baseball from one year to the next. We all should have seen it coming - Quentin was a former 1st round pick, hailed as a top prospect for years and made it to the majors at age 24. He had a ton of success in the minors, and after some struggles in Arizona he showed off his potential in Chicago.

Another success story in the 2008 season was Brad Lidge - unlike Quentin, he had great success as a closer, until the 05 playoffs. His struggles would continue until 2008 when he was traded to the Phillies. With this change of scenery, Lidge was able to return to his elite status as a closer.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, there's another player who I think fits the bill of an undervalued player. This former top prospect has struggled for a year or two to put it all together, and is no longer considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game. As far as I know he hasn't lost any of his stuff, which means it's time for the Jays to pounce on this player before he breaks out.

Who could this player be? It's none other than Starting Pitcher Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds.

Bailey was once considered among the top pitching prospects in the game, alongside Phil Hughes, before the start of the 2007 season. While he was solid, but not spectacular in AAA that year, he was called up to the majors and couldn't get anybody out. His 5.76 ERA was the result of a 28 walks to match his 28 strikeouts.

On the surface his 2008 minor league numbers may look bad - in 111 1/3 IP he had a 4.77 ERA, with 96 strikeouts to 46 walks. However, thanks to Fangraphs and it's incredible coverage of minor league stats, we can see that Bailey's BAPIP was 331, so he got a little unlucky with balls dropping in. Of course, without LD% it's difficult to determine if the BAPIP is relatively good or bad, but for the time being I'll assume Bailey got a little unlucky.

In addition, Bailey had a FIP of 3.96 - for those of you who don't know, FIP is fielding independent pitching. What it determines is how well a pitcher actually pitched based on the stats, regardless of how good or bad the fielders were. So when a FIP is lower than ERA, it means they pitched better than the ERA gives them credit for.

Bailey was ineffective in his second tour in the majors. Things aren't looking so good for him right now, as he's been passed by both Volquez and Cueto. But there are a couple of things we need to remember about Homer Bailey:
  1. Bailey is just 22 years old, and was called up at age 21 to the majors. Players at this age don't get called up by accident. Bailey was always younger than his peers, and he succeeded against pretty tough competition.
  2. I can't find a good scouting report, but in his limited time in the majors he's thrown a low 90's fastball (averaging 91-92 MPH), a slider, a curve, and a change up. He still needs to work on mixing up his pitches and controlling them, but I have confidence in Arnsberg and the coaches in the lower levels. Working on his control is the biggest thing, and once he gets that down he should be an above average pitcher. He's still 22, so he's got plenty of time left.
  3. Despite how HR prone he's been in the majors, he actually was very good at limiting HR's in the minors (.59 HR/9 for his career and .81 HR/9 as recently as last year in AAA). This is important to keep in mind because he'd still have similar home run issues in the Rogers Center.
I'm not expecting the Reds to just give Bailey away, but I get the feeling they'll be more open to moving him than they would have been in the past. So what are their immediate needs?

Their rotation wasn't a strength this year, but I feel a team that has Volquez, Harang, Arroyo and Cueto as a front four is pretty solid to say the least. They've also got a fifth option in Micah Owings, who was picked up in the Adam Dunn trade. So they do have the depth to trade a guy like Bailey.

Their bullpen had a 3.81 ERA, good enough for 8th in the majors. However, this was very deceiving, as they were 23rd in the majors with a 762 OOPS (relievers only) and 21st in the majors in WHIP at 1.45 (relievers only). Considering the depth of our bullpen, moving a RP would be a step in the right direction to get Bailey in my opinion. I'd be willing to move anybody but League or Downs - meaning guys like Carlson or Wolfe could be included in a package to get Bailey.

Despite playing in a park that was made to hit HR's in, the Reds scored 10 less runs than the Jays, good enough for 23rd in the majors. The losses of Dunn and Junior weaken their lineup going forward. Their infield is pretty strong, so outfield help could be the way to go. I realize in the chat I said I wouldn't move Lind, but I'd be intrigued at the possibility of acquiring Homer Bailey, so Lind could be moved as well.

The Jays rotation should be a strength over the next couple of years, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try to acquire more arms. Acquiring Bailey would be a risky move - he may not develop and we'd be worse off than we are now. But as a team that can't outspend others in free agency, the Jays need to be on the lookout for players whose stocks have dropped, but still have high potential.

There's no guarantee the Jays could even put together a package to acquire Bailey. Hell, he might never reach that potential that scouts believed made him worthy of the 7th overall pick. But the Jays shouldn't pass up an opportunity to grab a high ceiling player while his stock is still down.

Twitchy.

2 comments:

ari said...

agree.

not sure who said what in the chat (tough to follow who is writing what on here, i find), but i think there was a lind projection that had him in between catalonotto and ibanez - i'm not sure it's even that high. i think he will be lucky to have the mlb career the cat has had, although i certainly see why ibanez would be his ceiling. i guess what i'm really trying to say is that adam lind should be VERY movable this offseason, because he really is the only major-league ready asset the jays have that they can afford to trade (other than bj ryan).

The Southpaw said...

That was Twitchy I think. In my opinion, Lind looks very much like an Overbay type hitter.

~Will