Ground Rules and Background
Let's lay down some basic ground rules first. I'll do a FanShot (rather than FanPost) over at the SBNation Phillies' site The Good Phight to call for external partisan input whenever I post a new Mock Organizational Diary (MOD) in the minorleagueball FanPost section. Anticipate at least one MOD a week until the May 31 mock draft. All of the mock draft discussions will be held openly in the minorleagueball FanPosts - no emails, texts, phone calls, or tweets.
I have no allegiances to the Phillies. I volunteered for the Phils' scouting director job in this mock draft specifically because of the poor 2013 performance of their minor league starting pitchers. The extent of that problem will be conveyed below by data from a fielding- and ballpark-independent statistical evaluation system that I have developed and refined over the course of 2 years. The Phillies have the 7th overall pick and will make 3 other selections in this 4-round mock draft: #48 overall (Round 2), #82 overall (Round 3), #113 overall (Round 4). Let's table budget and slot value considerations until later MODs as pick candidates become clearer.
2013 Performance of Phillies' Minor League Starting Pitchers as a Group Relative to Other Organizations
A "starting pitcher" is defined to be any pitcher who faced at least 10 batters per game for the season. Stats from non-starts are included, but stats accumulated in the Gulf Coast League (the Phils have such an affiliate), Arizona League, or a foreign minor league are ignored. The evaluation system sorts all non-bunt, non-foulout, non-pitcher-batting plate appearances against the pitcher into one of 12 general outcome categories (walk or hit-by-pitch, strikeout, infield fly ball, ground ball to pull-field third of the diamond, ground ball to center-third of diamond, ground ball to opposite-field third of the diamond, and so on with outfield flyballs and line drives) and charges them with the typical (average) number of runs that was associated with the particular event in their league that season. The starting pitchers in each league then get ranked from best to worst on a runs (avoided) per plate appearance basis and that becomes their overall performance rating for that league. I also rate them after-the-fact only on control, only on strikeouts, and only on batted balls to identify their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Here is that data for the MiLB starting pitchers of the 30 organizations in 2013.
What those percentiles convey are that, on average, a Phillies MiLB starting pitcher:
- beat only 28% of MiLB starting pitchers on overall performance (30th best)
- beat only 38% of MiLB starting pitchers on control (28th best)
- beat only 40% of MiLB starting pitchers on strikeouts (28th best)
- beat only 33% of MiLB starting pitchers on batted balls (30th best)
- was younger than 54% of MiLB starting pitchers at the same level (10th best)
So, in general, what we see are starters performing quite terribly while being on the somewhat young side for their respective levels.
2013 Performance of Individual Phillies' Minor League Starting Pitchers Relative to League Peers
So now that we've identified the general problem, let's take a closer look at where the individual talent ranks on these parameters. The table below shows how the 44 individual starters performed in 2013 relative to their league peers and the prospect grades that John Sickels assigned them before the 2014 season, if applicable. Green denotes a value that was at least a standard deviation better than average (excellent), whereas red denotes a value that was at least a standard deviation worse than average (awful). Southpaws have been asterisked.
Unsurprisingly, only 13 of the 44 beat their league(s)'s average on Overall Performance. Worse yet, 2 of those 13 faced fewer than 90 batters and 3 were journeymen named Carlos Zambrano, Zach Miner, or Raul Valdes. Only 4 of the 13 were Phillies' draft selections, and that foursome includes the duo who faced fewer than 90 batters. So at the least there is an amateur drafting problem to address with organizational pitching, if not also a player development problem.
For a broader look at the state of the Phillies farm system as it appears to our mock draft commissioner and site czar John Sickels, click here.
Though this is but a 4-round mock draft, it seems wise to treat it as a true 40-rounder in this exercise. With a run on pitching expected ahead of the # 7 overall pick, quality bats should be available at that spot. The prospective value of a such a player must be weighed against how well the available pitchers project to address the organizational shortcomings illustrated in the table.
Two key questions to consider over the 2+ weeks leading up to the Saturday May 31 mock draft are:
- Which position players are worthy of consideration at the #7 overall spot?
- Which starting pitchers best address the organizational shortcomings shown in the tables and project to go off-the-board between just ahead of the #7 overall pick and the not-featured-here 5th round spot?
The first assignment for those who wish to participate as scouts in the mock amateur scouting department is research, and especially that focused on starting pitching. Ideally the organization seeks pitchers who are already/reportedly good at 2 to 3 of the 3 things in the tables (1. strikeouts, 2. batted balls, 3. control) and have the scouting reports to support continued success in those departments as professionals. Just to repeat that, we don't want purely performers but rather performers who also pass the scouting eyeball test. Pitch-repertoire-wise, please give the primary fastball its duly earned supreme priority and the better of the 2 offspeed offerings a much lower secondary priority in order to avoid drawing the ire of your scouting director and your general manager, Bizarro Amaro.
Let's convene again Monday, at which time the organization's scouts will begin to state cases for their preferred player targets. If you believe yourself able to function as a scout in the coming two weeks plus, please comment below to complete your interview and be hired.