Thursday, January 17, 2008

Keeping Jeff Larish in Perspective

By most Tigers' fans measures, Jeff Larish has become the Tigers' second best prospect. The first baseman put up solid numbers in Erie this past year in just his second professional season, but the bar is raised pretty high for someone who has nowhere else to move on the defensive spectrum. I don't think Tigers fans realize how uninspiring Jeff Larish is in the big picture.

Taking a look at the top 20 (by VORP) 1B in 2007, here are their offensive splits from their age 24 seasons:

Larish (AA) .267/.390/.515

Albert Pujols (MLB) .331/.415/.657
Prince Fielder n/a
Carlos Pena (MLB) .232/.316/.448
Ryan Howard (AA/AAA) .291/.369/.637
Mark Teixeira (MLB) .281/.370/.560
Todd Helton (MLB) .315/.380/.530
Derrek Lee (MLB) .281/.368/.507
Lance Berkman (MLB) .297/.388/.561 (AAA) .330/.476/.563
Adrian Gonzalez (MLB) .304/.362/.500
Dmitri Young (MLB) .310/.364/.481
Kevin Youkillis (AA/AAA) .285/.427/.409
James Loney n/a
Matt Stairs (AAA) .267/.347/.426
Justin Morneau (MLB) .237/.304/.437
Ryan Garko (AAA) .303/.384/.498
Casey Kotchman (MLB) .296/.372/.467
Paul Konerko (MLB) .298/.363/.481
Scott Hatteberg (AA/AAA) .242/.328/.386
Conor Jackson (MLB) .291/.368/.441
Adam LaRoche (MLB) .278/.333/.488

So at age 24, 15 of the top 20 first-basemen in baseball last year had reached the major leagues. In the case of Loney and Fielder, they are younger than Larish and have already established themselves as top flight major league hitters. You will also note that of those 15, 12 put up pretty good numbers in the majors with Morneau having an injury-plagued uncharacteristic down year. Of the five players who hadn't reached the majors, all had made it to AAA by this point in this career. Adjusting for era (Stairs and Hatteberg were 24 in the early 90's), only Scott Hatteberg was less impressive in his time in the minors with Stairs and Youkilis playing at roughly the same level as Larish.

Based on that, I'd say the odds are stacked against him at this point. "But he was just drafted in 2005! It's not his fault the Tigers have moved him slowly!" you could point out. Ignoring the fact that several players drafted in 2005 have already made big impacts at the big league level and the fact that Larish hasn't performed at a level to force the organization's hand, we can take a look at the AA performance of the above 20 1B's.

Pujols (skipped AA)
Fielder (20) .272/.356/.473
Pena (22) .299/.411/.533
Howard (24) .297/.374/.647
Teixeira (22) .316/.403/.591
Helton (22) .332/.424/.486
Lee (22) .280/.363/.570
Berkman (22) .306/.422/.555
Gonzalez (21) .283/.326/.393, .307/.371/.409
Young (21/22) .272/.325/.406, .292/.345/.455
Youkilis (23/24) .344/.450/.500, .327/.472/.465
Loney (20/21) .238/.311/.327, .284/.357/.419
Stairs - AA number not available... yes, he's that old
Morneau (21) .298/.353/.474
Garko (23) .331/.382/.523
Kotchman (21) .368/.419/.544
Konerko (20) .300/.393/.543
Hatteberg (22-24) 3 unspecacular seasons
Jackson (22) .301/.368/.456
LaRoche (23) .283/.379/.511

Larish stacks up a bit better here, until you throw in the fact that he was, in most cases, two years older than most of these guys when he was in AA.

Overall, the point of this is that he is not an elite 1B prospect by any stretch of the imagination. Even without Carlos Guillen signed through 2011, it would be tough to count on Larish to be a serviceable 1B for more than a year or two.

1 comment:

Matt said...

This is a good exercise and something I should do more when I'm trying to get a handle on what to expect from our prospects.