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Around the Farm: May 7, 2014

Perez's power, Milbrath's emergence highlight the night on the farm

Around the Farm: May 7, 2014
Roberto Perez (Photo: Brittany Chay)
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Around the Farm takes a quick look at some of yesterday’s performances by Cleveland prospects throughout the system. The positions listed below are where the player was playing in yesterday’s game. 

Roberto Perez (C, Columbus): 1-for-2, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB

Roberto Perez (Photo: MiLB)It is really important to not overreact to early season outlier performances. It is also really important not to overreact to hitters putting up big lines in Columbus and the hitter's paradise that is Huntington Park. But it is hard not to get excited for what Perez has shown so far in 2014. After suffering from Bell's palsy last year (and somehow playing through it), Perez is healthy again this season and raking. Perez was always a high-strikeout, high-walk hitter without any power, but the 2014 version of Perez owns a .277 isolated power and is showing that power both at home and on the road. There is no doubt that Perez's offense will regress -- after four straight seasons of a sub-.700 OPS, it is unlikely Perez will sustain his current 1.064 mark -- but if he can keep even part of this power, when combined with his plus defense, the catcher looks like a legitimate major league option.

Jordan Milbrath (SP, Lake County): L (1-2), 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 3 SO, 2 E

Jordan Milbrath (Photo: MiLB)Someone like Milbrath really underscores how much of the draft process can come down to great scouting and sheer dumb luck. Milbrath, a 35th round pick in the 2013 draft, has come out of the gates firing in 2014. Wednesday's outing improved the right-hander's ERA to 1.04 and his FIP to 2.48 in 34.2 innings this season. Plus, the 6'6" right-hander owns a 2.04 GO/AO, combining that strong groundball rate with a 7.52 SO/9 and 2.85 BB/9. Some of Milbrath's performance will regress once he starts giving up home runs (he has not given one up yet), but the right-hander is still off to a great start. The 22-year-old is a little old for the Midwest League, but in his first full professional season, you cannot ask for much more than what Milbrath is doing in 2014.

  • Travis Banwart (SP, Columbus): W (2-0), 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO. Banwart easily had his best start of the season, setting a season-high in strikeouts while not walking a batter for the first time this year. The right-hander owns a 3.44 ERA and 4.11 FIP in 34.0 innings.
  • Austin Adams (RP, Columbus): 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO. A few bad outings are inflating Adams' 5.17 ERA, but his 3.97 FIP and 2.29 BB/9 on the season point to a pitcher a little better than his raw ERA indicates.
  • Tim Fedroff (LF, Columbus): 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 CS. Make it 22-straight games getting on base for Fedroff, though the outfielder is still looking to add a little power to his game. Fedroff only has two extra base hits -- both doubles -- in 24 games.
  • David Cooper (DH, Columbus): 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB. Cooper continues his recent resurgence -- he has seven hits and two walks in his last four games -- but like Fedroff, the 27-year-old is also looking for a little more power (three extra base hits -- all doubles -- in 24 games).
  • Giovanny Urshela (3B, Columbus): 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI. Before 2014, the only thing holding Urshela back was his pitch selection, learning to swing at and drive the pitches he could actually do something with. Four extra base hits in his first five games in Columbus seem to indicate Urshela is still making good choices at the plate, even after his promotion to Triple-A.
  • Cody Anderson (SP, Akron): L (2-3), 2.2 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR. Before Wednesday, Anderson had allowed 12 runs total in 31.2 innings; on Wednesday alone, the right-hander let 10 runs score. This likely was just a blip on the radar and one of those days for Anderson.
  • Enosil Tejeda (RP, Akron): 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO. Akron's bullpen, on the other hand, pitched very well collectively, tossing 6.1 shutout innings after Anderson. Tejeda started that run, lowering his ERA to 2.31 while pushing his SO:BB to 13:1 in 11.2 innings this season.
  • Tyler Sturdevant (RP, Akron): 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO. Next up was Sturdevant, who now owns a 2.08 ERA and 14:3 SO:BB in 13.0 innings. After losing 2013 to a shoulder injury, the right-hander could not ask for better results so far this year.
  • Shawn Armstrong (RP, Akron): 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO. Finishing up the game was Armstrong, Cleveland's reigning minor league player of the week. Armstrong has turned his raw talent into results in 2014 (0.77 ERA, 17:4 SO:BB in 11.2 innings) and could be a promotion candidate in the near future.
  • Joe Wendle (2B, Akron): 2-for-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 3 SO, 1 E. Wendle's performance was a little all over the place Wednesday as he combined power with strikeouts and an error. The second baseman's .668 OPS leaves something to be desired, but his .161 isolated power is solid and his offense should improve as his .247 BABIP regresses up toward the mean.
  • Tyler Naquin (CF, Akron): 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB. Like Wendle, Naquin is another 2013 Mudcat struggling a bit in his first full season in Double-A. Naquin's .720 OPS is a little higher than Wendle's, but the outfielder's .381 BABIP is propping up his offense while his 33 strikeouts in 30 games are concerning.
  • Tony Wolters (C, Akron): 1-for-4, 1 3B. Wolters' eighth-inning triple extended his hitting streak to eight games. It also gave Wolters' his fourth extra base hit in 26 games.
  • Cole Sulser (SP, Carolina): ND, 5.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R (1 ER), 4 BB, 5 SO, 1 HBP. Sulser pitched better than his line, as five of his six runs were unearned (the Mudcats had five errors Wednesday) and three were let in by reliever Grant Sides. The right-hander had only allowed three walks in his first five starts of the season before giving up four Wednesday.
  • Anthony Gallas (DH, Carolina): 2-for-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SO. With his fifth home run on the season and an .899 OPS, Gallas continues to attempt to force his way to Akron. Working on his 28:5 SO:BB in 27 games could help the 26-year-old's case.
  • Jeremy Lucas (C, Carolina): 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB. It's always great to see a hitter willing to take a few walks and Lucas' .362 on-base percentage has reflected that in 2014. Plus, though he only singled Wednesday, the 23-year-old Lucas' .495 slugging percentage is impressive as well.
  • Luigi Rodriguez (LF, Carolina): 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 E. The season is still quite young for Rodriguez, but the early returns are encouraging. The outfielder owns a 9:10 SO:BB, .146 isolated power, and .385 on-base percentage through his first 12 games despite a low .281 BABIP.
  • Erik Gonzalez (SS, Carolina): 1-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 BB. Gonzalez's .753 OPS is not all that bad, but the shortstop's .367 BABIP combined with a 24:7 SO:BB -- the same strikeout and walk rates he showed last year -- are causes for concern going forward for the 22-year-old. It is still early, but Gonzalez will need to improve his approach in order to sustain his success.
  • Ollie Linton (RF, Carolina): 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB. Linton has not hit for much power this season, but he is getting on base (.371 on-base percentage), just like he did Wednesday night.
  • Caleb Hamrick (RP, Lake County): 2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. This was a fairly nondescript outing from Hamrick as Milbrath -- with whom Hamrick is piggybacking -- pitched most of the game. The right-hander now owns a 17:15 SO:BB to go with his 7.39 ERA on the season.
  • Eric Haase (C, Lake County): 2-for-4, 1 R. It is good to see Haase getting a few regular hits as his .224 BABIP begins to normalize. Even with the low BABIP, Haase owns a .817 OPS thanks to his .284 isolated power.
  • Ivan Castillo (SS, Lake County): 2-for-4, 1 E. Making his first appearance above the Arizona League, Castillo got his first two hits while also committing his first error.
  • Josh McAdams (RF, Lake County): 1-for-4, 2 SO. Two more strikeouts pushes McAdams' total to 32 in 21 games this season. The 20-year-old has plenty of talent but is struggling to limit those whiffs (his last strikeout-less game was April 24).
  • Clint Frazier (CF, Lake County): 0-for-5, 2 SO. Frazier has multiple strikeouts in nine of his 20 games this season, though he is still getting on base at a decent clip (he owns a.361 on-base percentage). The power will come for Frazier, which will only improve his already decent .751 OPS.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com

User Comments

troy
May 9, 2014 - 6:58 PM EDT
This just in: Cody Anderson sucks! AA hitters are smacking him around like the red headed step child. 16 K's in 34 innings pitched!
Seth
May 9, 2014 - 12:06 PM EDT
Nope Walter. Do you consider Naquin a power hitter? What I said is not the least bit controversial. He's clearly not a power hitter. He has a .108 ISO
Walter
May 9, 2014 - 1:31 AM EDT
Seth

I guess going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and 3 rbi's and raising his avg to 292 yesterday is not showing any power?

Seth
May 9, 2014 - 1:00 AM EDT
Joe, the point is strikeouts without the power. Naquin was an advanced college bat when he was drafted. He's 23 years old. It's not like he's a 20-year-old prospect who has tons of room for growth. What you see now is what you get. If he was a guy who could club 40 HRs, a 25% strikeout rate wouldn't be a big deal. With his skill-set, I don't buy into him as a prospect at all until he at least gets it under 15%. Which still isn't that good for guy like him, but at least would indicate potential.
Joe Chengery
May 8, 2014 - 11:47 PM EDT
Seth,

His lack of power isn't as much of an issue if he remains in CF. Plus, power is often the last skill that comes (see Michael Brantley, Mike Trout, and others whose power has come after establishing good plate discipline and strong all-field hitting ability). Keep in mind as well that this is only Naquin's second full season and he is at AA and just turned 23, so he's no more than age-appropriate or even a bit young for AA.

I think Naquin does get scrutinized more because most weren't happy with the pick when it was made, most thinking he's a fourth OFer, and because of past history with guys like Trevor Crowe and Brad Snyder. We need the full year and even next year to really get a feel on how good Naquin can be and where he projects- he's had just 30 G at the AA level and isn't the first one to struggle with that little experience.
Seth
May 8, 2014 - 5:24 PM EDT
When you're talking about Naquin and BABIP, what you're looking at is his strikeout rate, and the BABIP drives home how impossible it would be for him to have success unless he drastically cuts his strikeouts, like halves them. He's hitting .278 this year, not bad. But to even get to that level, he's needed a .381 BABIP. There is no player in MLB who's sustained a BABIP that high over the past 3 years. The closest is Trout at .378. And the .381 BABIP has only given Naquin the .278 average. In MLB, there are better defenders, the pitchers are better so he won't make as much hard contact ... you knock the BABIP down to something that's still on the high end like .340 and he's useless with that strikeout rate. A .240 hitter with no power who doesn't seem to have much base stealing ability.

He seems to have cut down on the Ks a bit the past few games, but he needs to sustain that. When you're looking at skills that translate to the majors, look at strikeout rate and walk rate and things like that. Naquin's drawing a decent number of walks, but his strikeout rate for a guy with no power is horrible
Jim Piascik
May 8, 2014 - 12:43 PM EDT
You're right. BABIP doesn't equal luck. That's me oversimplifying in that comment. But a .400 BABIP isn't sustainable, nor really is a .200 mark. A high BABIP for a stretch of time could be a player being locked in, but hot streaks and cold streaks don't last. It will come down.

And sometimes it is just someone finding the holes with the same amount of quality contact as always. There is some luck involved, as in all of baseball (and life). Haha
Brandon
May 8, 2014 - 12:40 PM EDT
I really don't agree that BABIP necessarily represents a player's luck. If a player is not swinging the bat well or doesn't have a good approach at the plate, he won't make as much hard contact. If you don't make hard contact, your BABIP will drop. That doesn't mean the player is unlucky, it means that he's playing poorly.
Hermie13
May 8, 2014 - 12:31 PM EDT
I'm not gonna say Naquin has been good this year, but one thing with the strikeouts that I think should be mentioned....his K-rate is now 25.2%. Again, not saying that is a good number for him but consider that just 2-3 weeks ago he was up around 33% and it's pretty clear there has been a big turnaround.

Honestly think he can succeed at the Major League level with a 25% K-rate provided he's playing decent defnese in CF and walking enough to get on base at a reasonable clip. His walk rate is now at 9.2%, which is even higher than it was at Carolina last year. Think it's unfair to always mention the high strikeout number with Naquin but ignore the high walk rate as well. His BB/K ratio is nearly identical to what it was last year at Carolina and is actually improved on what it was overall in 2013.


Naquin still has a lot to work on, but has shown some positives these last two weeks. Love the speed/aggressiveness he's showing on the basepaths early on too. 7 steals and only caught twice. Much better than his 14 of 21 he put up last year in Carolina.
shy
May 8, 2014 - 11:31 AM EDT
Well rare is the day when I wake up looking for arcane sabremetrics but can somebody who knows where to find this stat please tell us how many guys Carlos Santana has left on base the last 2 years, what is the league average for LOB for designated hitters and clean up hitters, how many guys he has left on third with less than 2 outs. I know if you walk it's not counted in the box score as a plate appearance, but you're still in the game, and DH's and clean-up hitters are not supposed to walk, they're supposed to drive in runs. This guy has 16 hits and 11 RBI in 2014 playing almost every game. Francona is always saying" he's such a good hitter" He can't possibly believe that, I think he's trying to coax whatever he can get out of him at this point. I would like to see Roberto Perez and Giovanni Urshela up here and Yan Gomes start playing some first base. Swisher and Santana are killin' em. And Gomes has 9 errors in 27 starts? There has to be some Steve Saxe, Chase Utley type mental block thing going on there and it has to stop sooner rather than later
Tony
May 8, 2014 - 10:33 AM EDT
I wouldn't think Armstrong, Tejeda and Sturdevant will be in Akron all year, but one or two of them might be. It depends on how injuries and such shake out at Columbus/Cleveland which will open up spots in Columbus. Trades and DFAs too as Hagadone and Barnes are two guys who later in the year could be moved either in a trade or even possibly DFAed.
Jim Piascik
May 8, 2014 - 10:03 AM EDT
I think all of us who write ATF build it into our own analysis of each player. Or at least that's what I do. We hear things, know what we see with our eyes, etc. But that typically ends up in a feature or Minor Happenings or something like that. ATF does end up more stats-based due to its nature.

Which is why I love days where I'm at one of the parks when I write it. It adds another level. I try to do that as frequently as I can. Though that hasn't lined up much for me yet this year. Hopefully soon.
Walter
May 8, 2014 - 9:56 AM EDT
Are Armstrong, Tejeda and Sturdevant stuck in Akron for the whole year because of the glut of releivers at AAA? All 3 are having good years up to this point.
BigTex
May 8, 2014 - 9:53 AM EDT
Tony/Jim,

You both bring valid points about the importance of the numbers; however, it often comes across that's the only thing being evaluated in these articles. I'm a huge fan of the ATF, but I think we tend to solely focus on a players stats, which inevitably vary year-to-year or month-to-month. I get that BABIP can normalize that, but what about work ethic, development, leadership, etc. that wins teams championships.

For example, Lindor is our #1 prospect without doubt. But why? Obviously he's a plus infielder, but he has not been overwhelming offensively. The main reason I see is that he's a true leader that works harder than everyone else, has a great attitude, and can change a game in many more way than with his bat. We know these things because he's Francisco Lindor, but I'm afraid we miss out on hearing that for some of the other guys. IMHO :).

This continues to be the best baseball site of any team and I appreciate all the information provided each day.
Jim Piascik
May 8, 2014 - 9:27 AM EDT
No, players shouldn't be looking at their BABIP. They should keep going out there and try to stay consistent from game-to-game, make good contact, and have a strong approach.

But when it comes to analyzing players, who is doing well, who is struggling, it helps to put things in context. Naquin has a good OPS; it won't last based on his approach (K-rate) and luck so far this season (BABIP). In order to find last success, he'll need to make more adjustments.

Sabermetrics and scouting go hand-in-hand. That's all they're doing here. :) Putting things into context.

Naquin has a line-drive stroke and some quickness, meaning his BABIP will be probably be higher than the league-average norm of around .300. That's why I'm not writing about his doom and gloom, who his .381 mark will fall all the way down.

But it will drop and probably settle in the .330-.340 range. Which will bring down his .720 OPS to around the .700-range. Which is obviously not very good. But the Eastern League is a big jump and all players have to make adjustments. We'll see how Naquin progresses, what adjustments he makes (or doesn't), and what happens from here. And rest assured that these stats will always be used with that context (same as always).
Tony
May 8, 2014 - 9:25 AM EDT
BigTex, the thing is, when the Indians evaluate performance from a hitting standpoint, that BABIP number is one of the most important numbers they look at. It helps paint a picture of how sustainable a hot performance is or if a poorly performing player is just running into a bad bout of luck. I'm no big sabermetrics fan, but I do value some of the numbers which absolutely help provide a better look into what a player's low/high batting average means, poor/good strikeout-walk ratios, and so on. I'm also a big fan of isolated power as a much better tool of proving power - though wouldn't call it some confusing sabr stat. It's actually pretty easy as it's just slugging minus batting average (you are basically subtracting out singles from slugging percentage since, of course, singles are not power but a high BA can inflate a slugging number).
BigTex
May 8, 2014 - 9:14 AM EDT
Norm, I have to agree.

This ATF is becoming polluted with sabermetrics. Yeah it's a great tool to analyze performance at a micro level, but it fails to take in many of the inherently obvious traits of baseball players. These numbers can be used to excuse a poor performer or under-value an great player. I'm interested in how players are developing at each level, what their attitude is, and how they approach the game more so than what a BABIP or WAR is through 1 month of a season. Sure as players approach ML level and winning become significantly more important, these numbers have more meaning, but what are we trying to prove with an A-level ballplayer?

In three years of watching Naquin and two years of watching Wendle, both of those guys are great baseball players that have a great approach to the game. Are there obvious areas these two guys need to work on and improve, absolutely. I have no doubt that they are putting every effort into improving those areas each night. But I don't think they're looking at their BABIP saying, "I'm never going to make it", or, "well I'll obviously be fine".
Rocky55
May 8, 2014 - 9:09 AM EDT
I think that what you see is what you get with Naquin. A guy who plays a good not great CF with an excellent arm, a .700 OPS guy who K's too much. I'm not convinced that he'll be any different at the ML level. Keep in mind that he was drafted as a bat-to-ball type of guy who had ben pitched around in a weak A&M lineup. If he was a 3rd rounder you'd be happy but not much of a return for the 15th pick.
Jim Piascik
May 8, 2014 - 8:44 AM EDT
Well sure, Naquin has the edge on defense, but that doesn't have any bearing on their offense.

I haven't liked how Naquin has looked this year in person, while Wendle has looked better. Maybe Naquin's making good contact recently, but that could just be the randomness inherent in baseball, not some big turnaround. The bottom line right now is he has not looked good in his first 48 games in Double-A, and that's with a very good .348 BABIP.

There is still time, of course, and Naquin's still very talented. But his early performance just isn't good, especially considering the underlying problems I mentioned. Wendle, on the other hand, has hit much better than his raw stats indicate and is on the upswing.
Norm
May 8, 2014 - 8:18 AM EDT
What you say is all true regarding Naquin and Wendle but you are not analyzing the players and just quoting random statistics. The one difference is that Naquin is ML defensively and Wendle is sub -par AA. You comment of Naquin's Ks but fail to see that his recent contact is much improved. When you add speed and throwing in, they should not be mentioned in the same breath.

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