The definition of prospect fatigue is when a prospect has been in the public consciousness for so long that they appear to have lost some of their luster, when in reality they contain the same potential when initially assessed (h/t to The Dynasty Guru, Craig Goldstein, for the definition). The term doesn't apply just to players yet to make their mark on MLB, but any young player that has been around for many years.
The newest member of the Baltimore Orioles outfield may be suffering from the debilitating disease as Travis Snider is just now entering his age 27 season, but already feels like a 30-something. With the Orioles losing two members of the 2014 outfield (actually, let's go with 1.5 players since Nelson Cruz was an OF in reputation only), they had to find a way to plug their hole and did so by acquiring Snider from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The asking price was two minor league players, one being left handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley, and the other being a PTBNL (player to be named later). We'll take an in-depth look at Tarpley now and whoever is tabbed at the PTBNL when it's announced.
Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
The Orioles third round pick from the 2013 draft, Stephen Tarpley joined the Baltimore organization from Scottsdale Community College after signing for a $525,000 bonus. This was the second time Tarpley had been drafted as the Indians selected him in the 8th round back in 2011 out of high school. At the time he had a firm commitment to play at Southern Cal, but he turned down their offer and went to USC for a year before transferring to Scottsdale CC to be eligible for the draft a year earlier. He can also speak Japanese and is a big fan of racing simulators.
While listed at 6'1 and 180 pounds, he's about and inch taller and about 10 pounds heavier since reported. The right handed hitting, left handed throwing California native made his professional debut with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Orioles after inking his deal. He made seven very impressive starts as a 20 year old, throwing 21 innings with a 2.14 ERA, a 1.79 FIP, and 1.10 WHIP after dealing with a bout of mono that delayed his debut. Tarpley struck out 25 (29.8%) while issuing just three free passes (3.6%) with 20 hits allowed, and no home runs. GCL hitters benefited from a generous .370 BABIP to post a .256/.298/.308 triple slash line with just four extra base hits and a 76% strand rate. In a sample that small, platoon splits won't mean anything as there just isn't enough data. The batted ball profile shows a ground out to air out ratio of 1.43, and a 50% ground ball rate to go with a line drive rate almost two points better than league average at 13%.
Entering his age 21 season and coming off a nice debut, most thought the organization would ship him straight to Low A for his full season debut. Those following this line of thinking were incorrect as he was sent to extended spring training before heading out to short season Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League (NYP) instead. With the IronBirds, Tarpley made 12 starts and one relief appearance tallying 66.1 innings with a 3.66 ERA, a 3.91 FIP, and 1.40 WHIP. He sent 60 batters back to the dugout with a K (20.8%) while issuing free passes to 24 batters (8.3%), allowing 69 hits, and four home runs. He was victimized by another elevated BABIP of .339, and this time around the opposition hit .279/.360/.393 with a 72.6% strand rate. Over a 217 plate appearance sample, Tarpley limited right handed hitters to a .266/.354/.397 triple slash with 22 walks to 44 punch outs and all four home runs allowed. Same sided hitters posted a much higher batting average but a similar OPS with a .317/.380/.381 line, just a pair of walks, and 16 strike outs with four extra base hits over 72 plate appearances. Looking at the numbers for batted balls, he posted great marks in ground ball rate (54.6%) and line drive rate (10.2%), with each being well above average compared to the NYP league average.
The scouting report on Stephen Tarpley starts with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 97 mph, but regularly resides in the 92-95 mph range. He gets good angle on his cheese with a high 3/4 arm slot and deception from a slight cross body delivery. A potentially plus curve is his best offspeed offering in the mid 70's with tons of 10-4 break (think of a clock face) when he rips off a good one. He doesn't have a ton of innings on his arm from his prep days so he's still developing consistency with the hook and eliminating the loopy hangers that come out on occasion. Tarpley's been working on a change up without much success yet. His entire body slows down when he throws one, tipping it off to the hitter, and he doesn't get much movement on it. The saving grace for it is he throws it in the low 80's, getting about 10-15 mph of separation from his fastball. Some see it coming around, but I don't know if that's the case. He's also messed around with a slider recently and is in its nascent stages. Tarpley's going to have to take a giant leap with the slider or change for him to stay in a rotation as two pitch guys are destined for bullpen roles these days. His command is below average right now but he's shown he can throw strikes, get the ball on the ground, and can strike batters out.
Pittsburgh will have Tarpley begin the 2015 campaign with their Low A affiliate in West Virginia. He looks to lead the staff as the highest ranked prospect, and will likely stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future, but I think in the end he's going to be a bullpen piece. The development of his command will determine how late in the game he can be used, and the development of a third pitch of some kind will determine if he can stick in the rotation. His full season debut should be illuminating to say the least.
Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball via YouTube
Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL)
Photo courtesy of Mets360.com
Acquired alongside Stephen Tarpley in January 2015, PTBNL plays an unspecified position and is an unspecified age. The unknown player has an unknown set of tools, and has an undetermined upside. SLEEPER ALERT! Rumored players to fit this description include Steven Brault and Jon Keller.
Travis Snider debuted at the ripe age of 20 years old for the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2008, a year and a half after being selected as the 14th overall selection in the 2006 draft. He breezed through the minor leagues, but spent the next three and a half years struggling to get a full time spot in the Blue Jays outfield. At the 2012 trade deadline he was shipped to the Bucs in exchange for right handed pitcher Brad Lincoln in a swap of former first round picks.
He posted his best season since 2010 with the Pirates this past year, hitting .264/.338/.438 over 359 PA's with a 118 OPS+, a 121 wRC+, and .343 wOBA. Snider parked 13 in the seats with 15 doubles, 34 walks (9.5%), 67 punch outs (18.7%), and was worth 1.7 fWAR and 2.5 rWAR. The defensive metrics liked his play in left field, rating it at +8 DRS while in right field it was -4. UZR/150 was the same deal with a 25.0 mark in left and -28.7 in right. Over his entire career he's posted a triple slash of .246/.310/.406 through 1,706 PA's, but is trending upward and is entering his age 27 season. Toronto and Pittsburgh have treated him as a strong side platoon bat, doing their best to limit his exposure to left handed pitching. He's got a career .249/.299/.399 line in just 277 career plate appearances against southpaws, not all that far off from his career split against right handers of .245/.312/.408. He avoided arbitration with the Pirates prior to the trade by agreeing to a one year, $2.1M contract in his second trip through the process. Baltimore will have two more years of team control on Snider before he becomes eligible for free agency.
Judgment on a deal like this has to be reserved until the second player is announced. Tarpley is a live arm, but there is a reason a second piece is headed to Pittsburgh as Tarpley alone is not enough of a return for a guy like Snider.