Mark Ellis of the Oakland Athletics (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Prospect Retro Redux: Mark Ellis
Oakland infielder Mark Ellis has been one of my favorite players for awhile. Part of this is upper-Midwest origins (he is from South Dakoka), part of it is because he was one of my original Shadow Draft players, and part of it is because I have a soft spot for the "scrappy" guys without great tools who turn themselves into useful players due to effort and polish.
I wrote a Prospect Retro for Ellis back in 2006. Here are relevant excerpts, plus a look at where Ellis stands now.
A native of Rapid City, South Dakota, Mark Ellis went to college at the University of Florida, where he was a successful starting infielder for three seasons. The Royals drafted him in the ninth round in 1999. He hit .327 in 71 games for short-season Spokane in his pro debut. His strike zone judgment was excellent: 47 walks, 40 strikeouts in 281 at-bats, a terrific BB/K/AB ratio. I gave him a Grade C in the 2000 book, although nowadays he would have earned at least a C+. I didn't pay as much attention to BB/K/AB back then.
Moved up to Wilmington in the Carolina League in 2000, he hit .301/.404/.411 with 25 steals. Not awesome power numbers, but again his strike zone judgment was excellent, and his overall OPS of .815, 15 percent better than the league average, was superb considering the extreme pro-pitching nature of the Wilmington park. I gave him a Grade C+ in the '01 book. Nowadays I would probably have him at B-. His main flaw at this point was age-relative-to-league, being 23 years old with no experience above A-ball.
Ellis went to Oakland in January of 2001, as a throw-in part of the Johnny Damon trade that sent Angel Berroa to Kansas City. Although the Royals liked Ellis' bat, they didn't think he had the range to play shortstop at the major league level, and they had other guys they liked better at second base. Oakland also liked him because of his bat, and were impressed enough with his glovework to jump him all the way to Triple-A in '01. He did OK, hitting .273/.351/.417, continuing to show impressive plate discipline. He rated Grade C+ entering 2002.
Ellis had adequate seasons for Oakland in 2002 and 2003 before a torn labrum cost him all of 2004. His '05 campaign was excellent, as he spiked some power to go with his already sound strike zone judgment. It could be a career season at age 28, but he should remain effective for the next few years. Ellis is an example of a polished college player, whose strong feel for the game combined with adequate athleticism has stood him in good stead.
Question: right now, would you rather have Mark Ellis or Angel Berroa?
Comparable Players to Mark Ellis
Since 2006, Ellis had a solid year in '07 (.276/.336/441, 109 OPS+, 19 homers), then was weaker in injury-plagued '08 and '09 seasons. Currently he is a career .265/.333/.407 hitter, 97 OPS+, with very solid defense at second base. His career has been brilliant compared to Angel Berroa.
Looking at Comparable players with another three years of data, here are the names now.
SIM SCORES: Charlie Neal, Tony Bernazard, Tim Teufel, Mike Lansing, Don Hoak, Brian Downing, Marlon Anderson, Mariano Duncan, Billy Martin, and Eddie Bressoud.
It's interesting that two comps from four years ago (Martin and Avila) still show up on Ellis' lists. Overall, he's been a solid player, quite a success as a ninth round pick who wasn't projected as anything more than a utility infielder by most scouts.