By The Numbers: Ex-A's Hitting Prospects

A number of former A's position prospects have migrated to other MLB organizations over the past few years, achieving varying levels of success. In the latest edition of "By the Numbers," a regular feature on OaklandClubhouse where Nathaniel Stoltz examines aspects of the Oakland A's organization through statistical analysis, Stoltz takes a look at a group of former A's position prospects.

Luke Appert was selected by the Phillies in the minor league Rule 5 draft last November, and has spent the season as a utility player at Double-A Reading. Appert has seen extensive time at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions. In 2007, Appert posted a stellar .595 park-adjusted UVI in 46 games at Stockton, and had an amazing .486 OBP—a figure that even Jack Cust would envy. Appert would finish the year at Midland, he saw his UVI drop to .459, but essentially maintained the same level of performance, as his level-adjusted UVI actually rose from .268 to .272. For the year, Appert posted a stellar 89 walks.

Appert had mainly played only at second base through 2005, and mainly the outfield in 2006 and 2007. The Phillies, however, hoped they could make him an offensive-minded bench utilityman. The reduced playing time this year, however, has caused a severe drop in Appert's production, as he is only hitting .234/.327/.348 with just a .372 UVI. Appert has continued to post a good walk rate, as evidenced by the 94-point gap between his average and OBP, but has showed little else at the plate this year. About to turn 28 and still not clear of Double-A, Appert's window of opportunity is closing fast.

Catcher John Baker, the A's fourth-round pick in 2002, is in his second year at Triple-A Albuquerque (Marlins affiliate) after being traded to Florida in 2007. In 2006, his last year in the Oakland organization, Baker hit .273/.361/.386 in his second year in Sacramento and looked like he wouldn't ever develop much power, although his park-adjusted UVI was a reasonable .443. However, catchers are known to develop late, and since leaving the A's organization, that seems to be exactly what Baker has done. In 2007, Baker hit eight homers (one less than in his two years in Sacramento combined) in 270 at bats, and posted an Isolated Power of .155, a 42-point jump from 2006. This season, Baker has seen an even more dramatic improvement, hitting .320/.394/.506.

A lefty catcher with decent defensive skills who can tear up Triple-A pitching like seems like a valuable commodity, but in Baker's case there is a big caveat to his post-A's performance, and that is his home park. As I mentioned last week in discussing Albuquerque pitcher (and former A's farmhand) Marcus Gwyn, Albuquerque is arguably the most hitter-friendly park in organized baseball, and definitely the most hitter-friendly park in Triple-A. Gwyn is thus underrated by his raw numbers; the opposite is true for Baker. When adjusting for his park, Baker's 2007 line deflates to .256/.333/.381 with a .411 UVI, which is .032 worse than his 2006 in Sacramento (which is the most pitcher-friendly park in the PCL). His 2008 holds up much better, but his OPS takes an 86-point hit, and his UVI decreases by 49 points. Still, that makes Baker a 27-year-old lefty-hitting catcher who is hitting a translated .287/.365/.449 with a .485 UVI in Triple-A, and many MLB teams could do worse at backup catcher.

Infielder Andrew Beattie spent 2005 and part of 2006 in the A's organization after being selected by the A's in the minor league Rule 5 draft. He was released by the A's at the end of July 2006 despite posting an impressive .500 park-adjusted UVI in Sacramento that year. Beattie then made quick stops at the Triple-A affiliates of the Brewers and Yankees, struggling in both places, before settling in as Baker's teammate in Albuquerque in early 2007. He has been on the Isotopes roster ever since. Beattie hit .277/.377/.524 with a .544 UVI for the Isotopes in 2007 and has hit .289/.347/.432 with a .457 UVI this season. As with Baker, however, Beattie's home park inflates his statistics, When adjusted, his two Albuquerque lines decrease to .248/.351/.476/.503 and .258/.318/.383/.413. Beattie has enough secondary skills and versatility to be a decent utilityman in the majors, but 30-year-olds in Triple-A have to be stellar to earn a callup, and Beattie's rather pedestrian 2008 falls well short.

Nick Blasi was released earlier this year by the A's and, like Beattie, has bounced around some, already spending time in the Mariners and White Sox organizations. Blasi's .316 batting average in Sacramento last year garnered him some attention, and when adjusted for cavernous Raley Field, his 2007 average swells to a phenomenal .348. However, even with that adjustment, Blasi's UVI is just .453, which is slightly above-average but not as excellent as his batting average suggests. One gigantic red flag for Blasi entering the season was his strikeout rate. Generally, players with high walk rates strikeout a lot because they work deep counts, and players with excellent power strike out a lot when they swing for the fences. When a player with a high strikeout rate doesn't have many walks or much power, the strikeouts are a product of a lack of hitting skill rather than a tradeoff for secondary skills. Blasi's strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2007 was greater than 3:1, and he posted a punchless .090 Isolated Power, so it was clear that the strikeouts were not a product of patience or power, but instead an indication that Blasi is often overmatched. Statistical analysts like myself often refer to batting average on balls in play causing pitchers to have fluke good or bad years, but it can happen for hitters too. Hitters have more control of their BABIP than pitchers do, so fluke hitter seasons are much rarer, but they do occur, and Blasi's 2007 Sacramento performance (which consisted of only 89 games) may be a very good example.

In 2008, Blasi seems to have unfortunately proved the red flags to be justified. Even when adjusting for his home park, his batting average for his 29-game Sacramento stint rose from .238 to just .257, and his adjusted UVI was a meager .328. Released by the A's, he spent six games playing for Triple-A Tacoma (Mariners) with a .341 UVI before moving to Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox), where his UVI has improved to .380, which still falls well short of average. Blasi's story serves as a statistical lesson: When a player struggles for four years in the low minors and then puts up a nice batting average in 89 Triple-A games, he doesn't automatically become a good prospect. Blasi needs to cut his strikeout rate while adding some power and plate discipline if he wants to play in the big leagues. He's still only 26, so he has maybe one more year to figure it out.

Eddie Cornejo, like Blasi, began this season in the A's organization coming off a season in which he posted a .390 UVI in 59 Midland games and then saw that figure slip to .343 in a late callup to Sacramento. Cut loose after three games and an injury this year, Cornejo caught on with the Rockies and was initially assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs. For the Sky Sox, Cornejo's UVI was .322 in 19 games, and he was demoted to Double-A Tulsa as part of an organizational infield demotion that occurred when Troy Tulowitzki returned from his quad injury. There, he has posted a .400 OBP and .451 UVI. Between Sacramento, Colorado Springs and Tulsa, Cornejo has walked as many times as he has struck out (13 each). As a lefty bat who can play all over the infield and draw a few walks, Cornejo's skill set is similar to that of current Rangers infielder Ramon Vazquez, so down the line, he could have similar use as a utilityman or lefty pinch-hitter for an NL team.

Shawn Garrett is now in his 11th year as a pro. He only spent one year in the A's organization: 2005 with Sacramento. That year may have been Garrett's best; he put up a career-high 17 homers despite playing half his games at Raley Field, and his adjusted line was .313/.346/.480 with a .485 UVI. Garrett has played for nine different organizations (Padres, Pirates, Rockies, A's, Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees, White Sox, Mariners) in those 11 seasons, and has played for those last five in the last three years. Garrett struggled mightily in 2006 between the Triple-A affiliates of the Phillies and Cardinals, posting a combined line of .220/.261/.356/.353. It was a surprise that Garrett was able to stay in organized baseball after that, given that he was already 28, but he moved down a level in 2007 and split the year between the Double-A affiliates of the Yankees and White Sox, where he hit a combined .290/.353/.452/.472. In 2008, he moved on to the Mariners, where he was again assigned to Double-A West Tennessee. Garrett didn't particularly improve on his 2007 performance in West Tenn, but he still hit .276/.333/.448/.468 in 23 games and was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma. With the Rainiers, Garrett has hit .297/.333/.424/.436, which appears to be a bit of a step down. However, Tacoma's ballpark is nearly as pitcher-friendly as Sacramento's, so with park adjustment, Garrett's line climbs to .326/.361/.459/.469.

You may have noticed in all of those stat lines that the difference between Garrett's batting average and OBP (sometimes called Isolated Walks) tends to be pretty small. This is Garrett's major flaw; he can hit for a decent average and decent power, but doesn't have much plate discipline to further boost his offense. I mentioned in a column about Scott Hatteberg two weeks ago that players who play first base and the corner outfield positions (which are the only positions Garrett can play) have to put up numbers well above-average overall to be above-average offensively for their position. While Garrett's bat would be intriguing if he played second, short or catcher, his offensive skill set is unremarkable for a player on the left end of the defensive spectrum. A .469 UVI is well above-average overall, but it is below-average for first base, DH and both corner outfield slots. While Garrett likely could perform adequately in the majors, he has done little to distinguish himself from countless other hard-hitting Quad-A bats. In this specific case, however, there is hope for Garrett. Due to the recent extensive turnover in the Seattle organization, first baseman Richie Sexson may soon be released, and the only two first basemen the Mariners have in the minors are Garrett and Bryan LaHair. The two are similar players, but Garrett has two advantages: he switch-hits (LaHair bats right-handed) and can play the outfield. The 29-year-old may soon find himself in a big league uniform.

Mark Kiger is the anti-Garrett—he plays shortstop and walks a lot, but doesn't have much in the way of contact or power. Kiger was released by the A's after the 2006 season. His only MLB experience was in the 2006 playoffs, making Kiger the only player in MLB history to play in the postseason without ever playing in the regular season. That year, Kiger had struggled in Triple-A (.427 adjusted UVI), prompting a demotion to Midland, where he excelled (.487 adjusted UVI). Moving to the Mets organization in 2007, Kiger was tremendous at Double-A Binghamton (adjusted .315/.432/.481/.540) but struggled in 14 games at Triple-A New Orleans (adjusted .152/.300/.273/.335). He started 2008 teamed with Garrett in the Mariners organization at Double-A West Tennessee, but Kiger has not been promoted. Kiger has hit just .233/.357/.296/.359. Notice the Isolated Walks of .124. Kiger has walked an amazing 51 times this year. While his season looks terrible as a whole, he seems to be heating up of late; he hit .299/.409/.330/.408 in June. Kiger needs to improve on his measly .063 Isolated Power if he wants another shot at Triple-A, but his discipline at the plate would make him a decent utility infielder and probably a better option than some of the all-field, no-hit players in that role.

Dustin Majewski was sent to the Blue Jays in the trade that brought Chad Gaudin to the A's in the 2005 offseason. In 2005, Majewski had cranked 20 homers for Stockton while putting up an impressive .517 UVI. He hit 20 homers again in 2006, this time across two levels in the Blue Jays system, High-A Dunedin (.493 UVI) and Double-A New Hampshire (.501 UVI). Majewski returned to New Hampshire last season and failed to build on his 2006, posting a .455 UVI. In particular, his power dropped off; he hit 14 homers in 130 AA games in 2007 after hitting 13 in just 65 games at the level in 2006. Majewski moved on to the Texas organization this year, and he has continued to toil at Double-A, this time at Frisco of the Texas League. Majewski has posted his highest batting average (.296) since his 2003 pro debut in Vancouver. While his slugging percentage of .453 isn't tremendous, he has posted a strong .401 OBP and .508 UVI. Majewski has an interesting package of secondary skills and could be a useful big league center fielder or fourth outfielder down the line.

Utilityman Marshall McDougall has journeyed through four organizations since being traded from Oakland to Cleveland for Ricardo Rincon in 2002. He spent four years in the Texas organization (2003-2006), getting a brief big league cameo in 2005 after posting an astounding .642 UVI for Triple-A Oklahoma. Released early in 2006, McDougall resurfaced in 2007 in the Dodgers system at Double-A Jacksonville. McDougall showed some rust after the year-long layoff, but still put up a .477 UVI and earned a midseason promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he posted superficially better numbers. However, Cashman Field is a launching pad, so despite having an unadjusted UVI of .514 (.052 higher than his .452 unadjusted mark at Jacksonville), McDougall once again posted an adjusted UVI of .477. Signed to a minor league contract by San Diego over the offseason, McDougall has played 21 games at Triple-A Portland, where posted a .437 UVI before landing on the DL May 16. McDougall has repeatedly proven he can hit Triple-A pitching, and he can play seven positions, so he would make for a great offense-minded utilityman or starting middle infielder. All he needs is an opportunity.

Kevin Melillo was traded by the A's earlier this season to Toronto after posting a decent .450 UVI in 38 Sacramento games. Since the trade, the second baseman has played for Toronto's Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, posting a .508 UVI and impressive .500 SLG. Melillo would make for a decent if unexceptional MLB second baseman if given an opportunity; there are definitely major leaguers at the position who are worse than him.

Adam Morrissey spent five years in the A's system from 2001-2005. His skills are reminiscent of Melillo's, although Morrissey bats from the other side of the plate. Morrissey has stayed in the AL West after departing the A's organization, first going to the Rangers, where he split a season between Frisco and Oklahoma. His weak first-half performance at Oklahoma (.337 UVI) didn't give the Rangers much reason to keep him around, even though he performed fairly well at Frisco (.458) after being demoted. Picked up by the Angels, Morrissey spent 2007 exclusively with Double-A Arkansas. His performance was rather unexceptional (.460 UVI), although he did draw 92 walks, and get hit by 15 pitches, resulting in a stellar Isolated Walks of .133. Brought back for this season, Morrissey delivered more of the same for Arkansas in 31 games (.448 UVI) before getting promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake. Despite posting a .528 UVI there in 28 games, he was demoted back to Arkansas on June 26. Morrissey is similar to Kiger, with slightly fewer walks and slightly more of everything else. With Appert, Beattie, Kiger, McDougall, Melillo and Morrissey, there seems to be a recurring theme: they all can play the middle infield, draw some walks and hit decently. Put in a role like that of former A's supersub Marco Scutaro, all could hold their own.

Jason Perry was traded to the Tigers last August for Jack Hannahan. With Triple-A Toledo, Perry struggled down the stretch, hitting just .184 in 16 games. The low batting average, however, disguised a decent performance, as Perry drew eight walks and posted an Isolated Power of .187 in three weeks with the Mud Hens, raising his UVI to .438. Cut loose during spring training, Perry caught on with the Braves a month into the year and lit up Double-A Mississippi for 38 games, bashing 13 homers en route to a 1.131 OPS and .722 UVI (for reference, that's better than A-Rod's 2007). Perry was called up to Triple-A Richmond in May and has barely missed a beat, hitting .320/.409/.520/.578. Perry has always had tremendous power, but he has clearly found a way to tap into it. He has also increased his plate discipline this year. Perry could be a cheap corner outfield solution for the Braves if Jeff Francoeur continues to slump, and his lefty power warrants at least a bench job.

Mike Rouse is yet another fringy infielder, although unlike the six preceding him in this article, he has gotten more than 100 big league plate appearances. Unfortunately, he has hit just .165/.238/.209/.258 in the bigs, and at 28, seems unlikely to get a chance to improve on that statline. The A's waived Rouse after the 2006 season, and he was picked up by the Indians, who broke camp in 2007 with Rouse as the primary utility infielder. Seventy-six plate appearances of .191 UVI hitting later, the Indians had seen enough and sent Rouse to Triple-A Buffalo. Rouse rebounded slightly there, but his .420 UVI wasn't anything to write home about. In 2008, Rouse has played for two other International League teams, starting out in the White Sox system with Triple-A Charlotte. He didn't show particularly well there in 24 games, hitting just .234 with a .411 UVI. Rouse moved on to the Phillies organization and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, for whom he has hit .265/.314/.346/.376. Given his MLB performance, Rouse needs to blow Triple-A pitching away if he's to get another shot, and he clearly isn't doing it. Rouse serves as a counterpoint to the Morrissey comment; above-average minor league hitters can become above-average utility players in the majors, but that doesn't mean that they will. Just because Rouse didn't make good on his opportunity (which he did deserve after several good years in Sacramento) doesn't mean that similar minor leaguers shouldn't get theirs.

Vasili Spanos was cut loose by the A's in spring training, but the powerful third baseman has found a new home in the Marlins organization with High-A Jupiter. In 23 games for the Hammerheads, Spanos has hit .265/.396/.446/.507. Spanos is already 27, so he needs to move up quickly to get to the big leagues, but his secondary skills deserve a look in Triple-A, given that he had 2.5 decent years in Midland while with the A's.

Brian Stavisky also found himself out of the organization when camp broke, but he has latched on with the Angels and is currently a teammate of Adam Morrissey in Double-A Arkansas. Finally healthy after suffering through an injury-plagued 2007, Stavisky, like Perry, has crushed Double-A pitching, hitting .354/.427/.602/.692. Despite stealing only 19 bases in six seasons in the A's organization, Stavisky is 8-for-9 on the bases in just 30 games this season, adding a speed element to his game. With the Angels outfield injury-prone and underperforming, Stavisky may earn a well-deserved shot at the majors if things break right for him.

Backstop John Suomi showed major promise in 2004 with High-A Modesto, hitting .295/.345/.440/.453 and making the Cal League All-Star team. However, injuries forced him to miss all of 2005 and prompted his release from the A's. He was picked up by the Pirates before the 2006 season and spent the year at High-A Lynchburg, putting up a .394 UVI as he shook of the rust from the missed season. Suomi switched organizations once again prior to 2007, catching on with the Nationals. Suomi didn't show well in his first taste of Double-A last year, posting a .380 UVI in 36 games before getting released by Washington and signing with the Phillies. Suomi wrapped up 2007 back at High-A Clearwater, where he finally showed some signs of life, hitting .258/.387/.435/.512 in 20 games. The strong performance prompted the Phillies to bring him back for the 2008 season, this time assigning the veteran to Double-A Reading. Suomi put up a .488 UVI in just 10 games there before becoming a teammate of Rouse's on the IronPigs. He has held his own in Triple-A thus far; his .330 UVI is largely a product of his three GIDPs in 17 games. He hasn't had severe issues with double plays in the past, so this is likely just a small-sample fluke. Given the lack of catching depth in baseball, Suomi could get a look someday as an injury replacement.

Matt Watson spent 2.5 years in the A's system from 2004-2006. He spent the bulk of that time in Sacramento, where he hit an adjusted .335/.412/.556/.582. Despite those extremely impressive numbers, Watson only got a few brief callups to the majors due to a plethora of good Oakland outfielders. Sold to the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League in the middle of 2006, Watson had two rather forgettable years overseas before returning stateside and signing with the Blue Jays prior to 2008. Despite a strong spring, Watson was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse, where he has hit .303/.415/.434/.496. Watson has consistently shown excellent hitting ability in the majors, and given the lack of production from Toronto's lineup, he could help the Blue Jays offense.

About The Author: Nathianel Stoltz is a statistics major at James Madison University in Virginia. He is the creator of the "Ultimate Value Index" or "UVI" baseball statistic. He hopes to some day work in the front office of a major league team. You can e-mail him with questions or comments by clicking here.

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