Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Scanning The System - Center Field

One day before a few more outfielders are added to the mix, I wanted to check up on the center fielders in the system using the expected batting average on balls in play method to see through any flukes. Unfortunately, luck isn't the only thing that can cause to a higher than normal BABIP. We saw last week that Wilkin Ramirez was playing significantly over his head. The problem with pinning it all on luck is that Ramirez is a very fast runner and likely has beaten out several ground balls that a slower player may end up back in the dugout after hitting. Granted, as infield defenses get better and hamstrings get older, these hits do tend to go away, but I want to remind everybody that speed can play a large role in BABIP discrepancies. It's a very convenient time to bring this up, because center field is a position reserved for typically the fastest players on each team. The LD%+.12 method will still be applied, but it's important to realize that it may not be an accurate representation for the fleet of foot.

Curtis Granderson, 27
Actual: .250/.306/.451
Expected: .264/.319/.465

Clete Thomas, 24
Actual: .292/.333/.385
Expected: .261/.305/.354

Granderson, like Miguel Cabrera, has taken an unfair amount of heat for the team's struggles. It was pretty clear that his season last year was a bit more than what he was capable of and his batting average seemed likely to come down. Combine the fact that it is very hard to hit in the American League this season, and Granderson's "expected" performance is about what should have been projected for this year. It's important to note that his strikeout rate is continually decreasing and his defense is still amazing. His diving play in the 8th inning last night was a thing of beauty. It's unfair to criticize players when you should be criticizing your own expectations.

I expected Thomas' expected numbers to be low. He seemed to be finding the holes through the first couple of weeks of the season. Clete's biggest asset is still his arm, which would have saved the game last night had Pudge been able to snag the throw that was right on the money.

Clete Thomas, 24
Actual: .242/.324/.406
Expected: .258/.337/.422

Freddy Guzman, 27
Actual: .286/.341/.429
Expected: .195/.261/.338

Even in Toledo, Clete has been pretty much as expected this season. He struggled a bit, which enabled Joyce to get the call over him when Jacque Jones was finally let go. Ultimately, he got hot again and is back with the big club.

Don't judge Guzman too harshly because of those numbers. He is very fast, and has probably turned his fair share of ground outs into singles.

Justin Justice, 23
Actual: .193/.274/.265
Expected: .157/.242/.229

Freddy Guzman, 27
Actual: .281/.364/.446
Expected: .173/.272/.339

A chain reaction ensued when Jacque Jones was released. Joyce moved up to Detroit, Guzman took his place in Toledo, and Justin Justice moved from left field in Lakeland to center field in Erie. As was the case when he moved up from Oneonta to West Michigan and from West Michigan to Lakeland, Justice has struggled to adjust to the level. That will have to change quickly if he wants the door to the big leagues to remain unlocked.

Jeramy Laster, 23
Actual: .237/.295/.449
Expected: .169/.233/.381

Justin Justice, 23
Actual: .300/.370/.533
Expected: .233/.311/.466

Laster has the raw tools that scouts love, but he has always had problems knowing which pitches to swing at. Already with over 80 strikeouts, that problem hasn't gone away this season. Justice was playing well before his promotion, but there are some signs he may have been a bit lucky.

West Michigan:
Kyle Peter, 22
Actual: .257/.368/.306
Expected: .170/.295/.219

David Chadd's nephew is very fast, but doesn't have much else in the offensive toolbox.

DSL Tigers:
Luis Castillo, 19
Actual: .143/.333/.143

Luis Castillo moves from the VSL to the DSL. This is presumably a promotion of sorts, made easier by the fact that Castillo, a Panamanian, doesn't have a summer league in his own country. He's a long way from the big leagues and has his work cut out just to make it stateside.

VSL Tigers:
Alexander Moreno, 18
Actual: .347/.390/.556
Expected: .222/.273/.431

Moreno, signed sometime between the publication of the media guide and the beginning of May, has been a pleasant surprise. It's hard to use the line drive rates that come out of the VSL. It's going to be up to Moreno's performance to find out if he's for real.

After trading the top two center field prospects in the organization and signing Curtis Granderson to a long term deal, it was pretty clear which basket the Tigers put all of their eggs. Despite his struggles this season, Granderson will remain an asset to the club for the duration of his contract. This is a relief, since it is hard to say any of the prospects can be counted on in any sort of a center fielder of the future role. Moreno bears watching, as does Laster if he ever figures out the strike zone. There are also several toolsy outfielders in extended spring training who will be in this mix as soon as the late season leagues kick off. Overall, the system doesn't have much in the way of center field talent down on the farm, but it's simply not needed, no matter how many irrational criticisms are thrown Curtis Granderson's way.

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