Minor Achievements: Bearish on Bailey
I'd like to lead off with a little lesson I sometimes forget until a potential superstar reminds me of it through his performance. To paraphrase Ron Shandler, "Once you show a skill, you own it."
My current favorite example is B.J. Upton. Coming into 2007, Upton's major-league K/BB ratio was 86-28. He started the season with 19 whiffs (and five walks) in 47 at-bats. Fast-forward to early June, and Upton has a 9-7 K/BB ratio in his last 44 at-bats. His numbers are more in line with his minor-league performance (he has averaged 83 walks and 125 whiffs per 550 Triple-A at-bats).
This is usually the case with players 25 or younger. When you look at Kevin Slowey allowing two walks in his first major-league start, or Carlos Gomez struggling to bat .200, remember: Once you show a skill, you own it. Slowey is a strike-throwing machine, and Gomez is a young five-category talent. Based on their track records of health, skills, youth and performance, they will hit (or pitch) very effectively over the long term.
So when you identify a young player with excellent skills, remember: The key is patience. Once you show a skill, you own it. And a limited sample saying otherwise isn't sufficient evidence to throw a player overboard. If you don't believe me, ask Chad Gaudin.
Homer Bailey, RHP, CIN -- Bailey is coming up to start on Friday. If you're in a keeper league, and you can't grab someone until they hit the show, this is your chance. Looking for help for right now? I don't think Bailey's going to be a savior. His arm is elite, and I think he will be a superstar in time, but his command isn't superb at Triple-A, and he must learn to throw more strikes with all his pitches. But, if you want a contrarian view, mull this: In his last three starts at Louisville, Bailey has allowed 13 hits in 18.2 innings with a 24-5 K/BB ratio. All signs are pointing up, but I still think our man is going to go through some growing pains this season.
Tony Abreu, IF, LAD Etanislao Abreu, 22, was promoted to the majors after the Dodgers decided that 38 at-bats was enough to determine that Andy LaRoche wasn't ready for primetime. This is stupid, but what do I know? I won't even mention that LaRoche had a .436 OBP, which is tremendous for anyone, let alone a guy taking his first stab at the big leagues. Nope, I won't even laud LaRoche for his Bonds-like 5-15 K/BB ratio or the fact that he scored eight runs in those 38 at-bats (which translates to 116 runs over 550 at-bats), despite the fact Andy was batting a mere .211 and slugging only .263. I mean, imagine what LaRoche would have done once he got rid of his heeby-jeebies!? Anyway, back to Abreu. He was batting .347-.397.503 at Triple-A Las Vegas, and he's currently batting .342-.333-.500 in the show. Abreu has a quick bat and makes good contact. He has good speed but doesn't use it well, and his major downside is that he isn't likely to hit more than 15 homers at his peak. That, and the fact he doesn't walk. Abreu can be a solid player in the Tony Fernandez mold, but there is no way he has more upside than someone such as LaRoche. Still, in deep leagues, Abreu has value.
Rajai Davis, OF, PIT -- Davis, 26, batted .318-.384-.469 with 27 steals in 36 attempts at Triple-A Indianapolis (International League), and the Pirates have brought him up to platoon in center field with Chris Duffy. Davis is interesting if you're looking for a guy who keeps the ball down and gets his share of steals, but his age means he won't get much better, and he's a pretty two-dimensional player (average and speed). In NL-only leagues, he is someone to put on the bench. But at best, you'll likely get 150-200 at-bats from him, and that might not be enough for him to get acclimated to the show and put his skills to good use. Honestly? It makes more sense to give at-bats to Nate McLouth. McLouth is younger, has a better swing, and much more offensive upside. But I'm not in the Pirates' front office.
Yovani Gallardo, RHP, MIL -- Gallardo's size isn't ideal (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), but this guy's performance is second-to-none in the Pacific Coast League. He is 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA. In 67.1 innings, Gallardo has allowed 43 hits (one homer!), and he has a 95-21 K/BB ratio. How about his stuff? He has a consistent low-90s fastball that hits 95-96. His curveball and slider are fine pitches, and he has a sharp changeup. With his combination of talent and performance combined with the recent call-ups of his competition, he's the best pitching prospect in the minors right now.
Andrew Miller, RHP, DET -- Miller started the season in lackluster fashion at high-A Lakeland in the Florida State League. He had a 3.48 ERA, but allowed 43 hits in 41.1 innings with a 28-15 K/BB ratio. What made him interesting was his stuff and his 4.5 ground-out/fly-out ratio. Since moving up to the Double-A Eastern League, his numbers have gotten much better: He is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA, allowing 22 hits (two homers) in 30.2 innings with a sharp 24-5 K/BB ratio. He is also yielding 4.62 ground outs per fly out. Miller is a 6-6 lefty with a 96 mph fastball, and a bat-breaking slider. He uses a two-seamer versus right-handers but Baseball America suggests he might need an upgraded change of pace to do a better job of handling right-handed hitters. Me? I note that righties are batting a mere .198 versus Miller at Double-A, so I don't know if he needs another pitch.
Adam Jones, OF, SEA -- Jones is a mere 21. His K/BB ratio is a problem (56-22 K/BB ratio), but he is batting .291-.372-.514 for Triple-A Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League. Correction, Jones' contact rate is the problem: He is whiffing in 25.5 percent of his at-bats. OK, there's another problem, he is a fast runner who is a mere 3-for-8 as a thief. Baseball America compares this kid to Mike Cameron because of his speed, arm and power potential. Jones has a chance to dramatically outplay Cameron, but he must make more contact and better utilize his speed. He is on a pace for roughly 39 doubles, nine triples and 30 homers, and he is young enough to get a lot better.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.COM. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at email@example.com.