Career Profile: Jim Edmonds
The retirement of Jim Edmonds is a great time for a Career Profile of this fine player.
Jim Edmonds was drafted by the California Angels in the seventh round of the 1988 draft, out of high school in Diamond Bar, California. He was assigned to Bend in the short-season Northwest League, hitting .221/.329/.254 in 122 at-bats. This was unimpressive statistical performance, but he was a high school kid going into the Northwest League against players a bit older than he was, and he did show good athletic tools. I would probably give a similar player a Grade C or maybe a C+ now, depending on the exact scouting reports.
Edmonds played just 31 games for Low-A Quad Cities in 1989, hitting .261/.313/.337. He showed almost no power, along with weak plate discipline (seven walks, 34 strikeouts in 92 at-bats), and stole just one base. At this point there wasn't anything that looked good about him as a prospect at all, other than being young and athletic. He'd rate a Grade C, toolsy but unrefined.
Moved up to High-A Palm Springs in 1990, Edmonds improved with a .293/.351/.417 mark, beginning to tap into his power with 18 doubles in 314 at-bats, and doing a better job controlling the strike zone, though his BB/K ratio remained blahish at 27/75. A similar tools guy making gradual improvements like this would get a Grade C+ from me.
Injuries limited Edmonds to just 60 games in 1991, again at Palm Springs, with .294/.414/.417 results. On the surface he didn't change much; the batting average and SLG didn't budge. But note the big jump in his OBP due to a doubling of his walk rate. There were clear signs of progress here. Nowadays, I would rate someone like this as a strong C+ or perhaps a B-, with a "sleeper alert" tag attached.
The breakout happened in 1992: .313/.413/.488 in 70 games for Double-A Midland, followed by a .299/.343/.490 mark in 50 games for Triple-A Edmonton. The offensive contexts favored him, but it was clear that he'd made real progress. His glove was getting noticed at this point, too. I would rate a similar player a Grade B or a strong B- most likely now, with a higher grade precluded by the fact that his strikeout rate exceeded once per game.
Edmonds spent most of 1993 in Triple-A, hitting .315/.382/.492 for Vancouver. He made his major league debut later that year, hitting .246/.270/.344 in 18 games. I would probably have held him steady as a Grade B-/B prospect.
He played 94 games for the Angels in the 1994 strike year, hitting .273/.343/.377 in 289 at-bats. His rookie season wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, with scouts complaining that he had problems with breaking balls and was disappointing on defense. Quoting from the 1995 STATS Major League Scouting Notebook, we find the following assessment: "Edmonds can expect to see his playing time diminish. While he showed some signs of developing as a hitter, his role will probably be reduced to fourth outfielder. This more closely suits his abilities." This reflected the scouting consensus on Edmonds heading into 1995.
He proved this skepticism badly misguided, hitting .290/.352/.536 with 33 homers, 107 RBI, an All-Star nod, a 129 OPS+, and good reviews for his glove. This excellent sophomore season began a career that saw him play 2011 games over 17 seasons, hit .284/.376/.527, with an OPS+ of 132. He hit 393 homers. He won eight Gold Gloves. He finished with a 68.1 career WAR, with eight seasons of 5.0 WAR or higher. His best season was 2004, with a 8.3 WAR, a .301/.418/.643 slash line, 42 homers, 38 doubles, 111 RBI, and 101 walks.
Does Edmonds have a Hall of Fame case? It looks marginal on the surface. His Hall of Fame Monitor reading is 88, with a likely Hall inductee reading 100. His Standards rating is 39, with the average Hall member reading at 50.
Sim Scores are interesting: Ellis Burks, Duke Snider, Andruw Jones, Jason Giambi, Shawn Green, Dale Murphy, Fred Lynn, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, and Willie Stargell. Snider and Stargell are in the Hall. It is interesting to note that the highest actual Sim Score of any of these players is 908 for Burks, which isn't really that similar at all. Edmonds is a unique player.
Will he get into the Hall of Fame? I don't know. He isn't a slam dunk case by any means, but it wouldn't be an embarrassment to put him in, either.
From the prospect analysis perspective, there was nothing in Edmonds' minor league career to indicate that he would turn into a borderline Hall of Fame player. It took him three years to figure out A-ball, although the big improvement in his strike zone judgment in his second tour of the California League was a positive marker. Even when he was in Double-A and Triple-A and playing well, he looked like a guy who could be a solid regular, not turn into a superstar. And the "fourth outfielder" scouting reviews from his rookie year are funny to read now.