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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Still Not Buying It

Jon recently wrote:
So those who have taken the failure for the Dodger farm system to produce a star in 2005 as a sign that it has been overrated have lost perspective on time.
Jeff Francouer. Felix Hernandez. Huston Street. Instead one of those guys turning up, what the Dodgers have is a second baseman playing out of position at third (Aybar), a AA starter they keep irresponsibly pulling up to pitch in the bigs when he's clearly not ready (Broxton), and a fair-hitting catcher who wasn't signed by the Dodgers (Navarro). I'm not saying this is the alpha and omega of player development, but the chronic failures of guys like Joe Thurston, James Loney, the oft-injured Hong-Chih Kuo and now even Edwin Jackson makes me think the Dodgers system is overrated.

But that's not really the strongest argument you could make, so I'll advance a different one. Jon claims that those of us arguing that the team is overrated are being impatient because the really good drafts didn't start until 2002. That could be true, except for one thing: Baseball America's rankings were heavily weighted toward draftees well before that class. Consider the following prospects from BA's annual top ten lists:

2003
Year SignedPlayer
2001Edwin Jackson
1999Reggie Abercrombie
1999Joe Thurston
2000Koyie Hill
1997Alfredo Gonzalez
2000Joel Hanrahan
2001Joel Guzman
1999Chin-Feng Chen
2004
Year SignedPlayer
2001Edwin Jackson
2000Franklin Gutierrez
2000Joel Hanrahan
2000Koyie Hill
1999Reggie Abercrombie
2005
Year SignedPlayer
2001Joel Guzman
2001Edwin Jackson

And yet -- while I don't have the 2003 Prospect Handbook in my library, in 2004 BA ranked the Dodgers system second in the majors, and clearly, this was in large part on the strength of prospects drafted from 1999-2001. If there's been a problem of expectations management, it's in terms of reading and believing BA, when they rate the Dodgers farm system. So our horizons must stretch further into the future. Fine -- but let's be clear about one thing: the Dodger farm system has been overrated based on prospects drafted earlier than 2002.


Comments:
Surely you must mean Jackson, not Broxton
 
Regarding the 2004 Rating:
Two of those players were traded for rather useful parts (Finley and Bradley). It seems a little circular, but doesn't some of the value of the farm system come from other team's perception that there is value there? That is, if marginal farmhands can be flipped for decent vets, does it matter that they were marginal in the first place?
 
Steve: Broxton was a starter most of the year and converted to relief so he would get to the majors faster. It hasn't worked.

Cap: it's a fair question, but my answer is another question: where's Gutierrez now? Where's Koyie Hill?
 
Rob, capital dodgers question already answer's yours. You know the part where he asks,"does it matter that they were marginal in the first place?" That means that he is discounting where they are now and saying wasn't their value more in what they could get rather than in what they could produce. He's asking if it matters where they are now, so why are you then answering the question by asking where are they now?
 
I would further suggest that it's difficult to develop young talent when you have an immediate track record of doing bizarre things with it (Perez, Choi, Broxton, Aybar, Jackson).

You look at the Angels, and with just about zero exceptions you see the plan for every Grade A guy, pending the final positioning for Wood, and the shortstop situation from 2007. Players are developed, and when they're ready (more or less) positions at the Big League club are vacated, and they're given a full shot. The Dodgers ... who the hell knows what they're doing, aside from those claiming a Vulcan mind lock with DePo.
 
OK. I see what you're saying. I'd rather leave Broxton as a starter as well. The sentence echoed of Edwin Jackson.
 
ok, i understand your frustration with the lack of a star to arise from the farm lately despite the high rankings. but what i DON'T understand is your eagerness to disparage the potential of the current crop in the farm system because of some busts in 2003-4.

the part of your argument that i'm not following is: what do the current prospects have to do with the failures of before?

unless you think there is some real propensity of the dodgers to find bad prospects that look good initially (which i don't believe there is enough evidence as of yet to assert), it looks like mere random chance to me that they were mostly busts. and if that is your argument, then maybe the fact that logan white came in for the 2002 draft will be significant.

obviously, not all hot prospects make it in the bigs. and there may be specific things that the A's and angels do with their prospects that helps in their success, and maybe the dodgers need to employ those techniques, or maybe it's largely good fortune that they've had a high success rate. but either way i don't think that's what you're complaining about for the dodger system.

additionally, with the dodger busts of the recent past couldn't one just as easily assert that BA got it wrong with guys like reggie abercrombie and alfredo gonzalez than that the dodgers somehow screwed them up? i can't say, myself. from what i understand, prospect scouting is very inexact. at best, i think what it can do is identify players with high potential, and right now the dodgers have a lot of players with very high potential, and while that's no guarantee of success, it sounds pretty hopeful to me.
 
Wow, a lot of good discussion here. Chris, the issue I have is that those two guys were once considered top prospects and yet they turned into nothing at the major league level (so far, but with the clock ticking hard). The problem, in other words, is that I'm trying to get a bead on the quality of the evaluation, and subsequent non-performance of those top prospects makes me think BA's opinion of the farm is too high.

Vishal -- hopefully my answer above ties a bit into your question. Three years ago, BA had good things to say about Gutierrez, but he's fallen off the map. Three years ago, Josh Boyd had this to say about "prospect" Joe Thurston:

He's a proven winner, a proven overachiever. There is no reason for him not to continue his success.

Well, we all know how that went. Part of the issue may be that BA places too much faith in a prospect after a single very good year in the minors. So I think, ultimately, that may well be where my beef lies: the people making the ratings have a different criteria for success than I do. Obviously, not every top prospect comes up and does well, but some number of them do.

unless you think there is some real propensity of the dodgers to find bad prospects that look good initially (which i don't believe there is enough evidence as of yet to assert), it looks like mere random chance to me that they were mostly busts. and if that is your argument, then maybe the fact that logan white came in for the 2002 draft will be significant.

I don't think it's random chance at all, and that's my point: the Dodgers system isn't turning out quality major leaguers despite high marks by BA. If the bar is moved to the 2002+ class, fine, but let's also agree that it means the previous assertions as to the quality of the Dodgers system were pretty bogus, too.

additionally, with the dodger busts of the recent past couldn't one just as easily assert that BA got it wrong with guys like reggie abercrombie and alfredo gonzalez than that the dodgers somehow screwed them up?

I think that's the position I'm coming around to, yes, although you could also argue that the Dodgers' utilization of their rookies in 2005 hasn't helped anything, as per Matt.
 
"in 2004 BA ranked the Dodgers system second in the majors, and clearly, this was in large part on the strength of prospects drafted from 1999-2001"

I don't see how you know this to be true.

Why couldn't the ranking of the system be reflective of players in the low minors?

On your chart, I'm unclear about something. Under 2004 and 2005, are you deliberately leaving off players drafted after 2002? For example, you cite two players under the 2005 column that were pre-2002 draftees (or in the case of Guzman, a 16-year-old signee). How does that translate into "heavily weighted toward drafees" before 2002? The decreasing emphasis on those pre-2002 guys as you move into 2004-2005 seems to prove the opposite.

You dismiss the ranking of the system in 2003 because you don't know what it is - yet this is precisely my point. It wasn't until 2004, unless my info is inaccurate, that the rankings of the Dodger system rose to the stratosphere.

"but let's be clear about one thing: the Dodger farm system has been overrated based on prospects drafted earlier than 2002."

Until you show that the Dodger system was ranked highly without the post-2002 draftees being considered, you haven't proven this point.

P.S. James Loney and Hong-Chi Kuo are failures? (For that matter, Jackson.) Talk about a rush to judgment.
 
I don't see how you know this to be true.

When half the top ten prospects came in draft classes prior to 2002, it's a fair assertion. If the Dodgers' top prospects were all in the lower minors, why didn't they displace the guys previously higher up in the list? I'll grant you this, though: 12 of the top 30 in the 2004 book were drafted prior to 2002.

P.S. James Loney and Hong-Chi Kuo are failures? (For that matter, Jackson.) Talk about a rush to judgment.

Loney needs to show he's capable of more than one good season, i.e., he's not Joe Thurston II. Kuo needs to show he can stay healthy. Jackson needs to not be in the majors when it's clear he doesn't belong there. What rush to judgement?
 
The high ranking of the Dodger minor league system today stems primarily from the 2002 and 2003 draft classes.

2002
#1A James Loney
#1B Greg Miller
#2B Jon Broxton
#4 Delwyn Young
#5 Mike MeGrew
#17 Russ Martin

2003
#1 Chad Billingsley
#2 Chuck Tiffany
#6 Matt Kemp
#7 Wesley Wright
#21 Travis Denker
#27 Jesus Castillo
#39 Andy LaRoche

This does not include non-draftee FAs that were signed before 2003 such as Guzman Aybar, Abreu, Hu, Osoria, C. Alvarez, Kuo and Jose Diaz.
 
"When half the top ten prospects came in draft classes prior to 2002, it's a fair assertion. If the Dodgers' top prospects were all in the lower minors, why didn't they displace the guys previously higher up in the list?"

They clearly were displacing the prospects higher on the list. According to your own chart, the pre-2002 representation in the top 10 went from 8 to 5 to 2 in two years. And again, you make no allowance for the fact that Guzman was 16 when he signed. Count him among the pre-2002ers, sure, but there was no way he was going to arrive before now. Kid is still only 20.

James Loney OPSed .876 in a pitchers' league in AA at age 21. If you're calling that failure, that's plainly a rush to jugment. It's one thing to say he hasn't proven himself yet, but calling him a failure?

Barry Bonds was still in the minors at 22. At Loney's age, Bonds was in A ball. By your standards, Bonds was a failure.

As far as refuting my post, it boils down to this. In the years before 2003, after Loney had his debut, was the Dodger system highly regarded? How long has the Dodger system been highly regarded?
 
They clearly were displacing the prospects higher on the list.

But not all of them and not even the majority at the top of the list.

James Loney OPSed .876 in a pitchers' league in AA at age 21.

Loney OPSed .876 in AA at 21? When did that go down? Neither of the Cube nor MILB.com show that number. Even though they disagree, neither shows him over .800 (.782 and .776 respectively).

As far as refuting my post, it boils down to this. In the years before 2003, after Loney had his debut, was the Dodger system highly regarded? How long has the Dodger system been highly regarded?

My concern continues to be the people ranking the system (see the quote about Thurston above). Maybe the Dodgers do have a good system at the lower levels. But the machine has been going now for at least two years. At best, it seems haphazard.
 
Dodgers talent rankiings by BA:
http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/040323talentrankings.html

1999 #24
2000 #23
2001 #28
2002 #25
2003 #14
2004 #2

This supports what Jon said.

Also, looking at BA's top 11-30 list in 2004, there's a lot more players from 2002 and 2003.

2004 top 11-30 in Dodgers according to BA and when they were signed:
11. Guzman 2001
12. Colyer 1997
13. Aybar 2000
14. Broxton 2002
15. Tiffany 2003
16. Chen 1999
17. Figueroa 2002
18. Martin 2002
19. Megrew 2002
20. A Brown from trade in 2002
21. D Young 2002
22. Hu 2003
23. Brazoban from trade in 2003
24. Thurston 1999
25. O Rodriguez from trade in 2002
26. Nixon 2002
27. J Mcdonald 2002
28. J Rivera ?
I can't find when Rivara was signed because his record on the baseball cube is all mixed up. But he first played for the GCL Dodgers in 2004.
29. Pilkington 2001
30. Hammes 2002

So in 2004 players drafted or signed after 2002 occupy 5 0f top 10, 7 of top 15, 10 of top 20, 12 of top 25, 16 in top 30, not to mentioned 3 players obtained via trade after 2002. So for the 2004 ranking, prospects signed after 2002 has as large a part if not a larger part than players signed before 2002.

And consider that in when the list was made, there were less players signed after 2002 (2002~2003: a 2 years time span) than players signed before 2002 (199~2001: a 3 years time span) and those players signed after 2002 had less time to develope (it was the beginning of 2004, the 2003 draft class had only played for half a season!), it is clear how good the Logan White draftees and signees are compared to the prospects before 2002.
 
Thanks for that link, Noodlemantra. I still disagree with Jon. It's absolutely clear that the 2002+ drafts were the turnaround for the Dodgers system. I don't dispute that. I do say that the presence of draftees prior to 2002 on the 2003 and 2004 lists gave a very misleading impression at best as to when these guys would be available.
 
Well, perhaps I should've said that "it is clear how good the Logan White draftees and signees are compared to the prospects before 2002" in the eyes of BA.

Anyway, I think my last paragrah above answered you question "When half the top ten prospects came in draft classes prior to 2002, it's a fair assertion. If the Dodgers' top prospects were all in the lower minors, why didn't they displace the guys previously higher up in the list?"

The fact that in 2004 the 2002~2003 draftees and signees took half of the top 10 and more than half of the top 30 is already very impressive, when they consist of less than half the players in the farm and had only played at most 1 and a half season.
 
What was misleading about when they would be availble? I don't think BA lists have anything to do with arrival time.
 
The top prospects have steadily been receding into the future as we get deeper and deeper into the Logan White drafts. That's what I mean. By 2005 we only had two of the top ten from pre-2002 drafts. Going forward, it becomes increasingly frustrating watching the future get farther and farther away. Some of that's due to trades, of course, but some of that's due to the Logan White Time Dilation Effect.
 
I dont' understand why you said the future is getting further and further away. If the pre-2002 prospects were good, they would've stayed on the top prospects lists or become good mlb players. Are you saying it's a bad thing that White draftees are taking over the top prospects list?
 
In terms of credibility of the BA rankings, it might be interesting to look at past top 100 lists and see how those players doing now. Perhaps someone already did that. I think I've seen people said that top hitting prospects have better carrers than the top pitching prospects, mainly because of the injury factor.
 
I dont' understand why you said the future is getting further and further away. If the pre-2002 prospects were good, they would've stayed on the top prospects lists or become good mlb players. Are you saying it's a bad thing that White draftees are taking over the top prospects list?

If the young star prospects coming up in 2002/3 were largely signed in 2001 and before, then they should be due to start producing in the 2004 and beyond time frame -- in other words, 3-4 years into the future in 2002/3. As the older top prospects have been replaced by younger guys drafted more recently, the apparent future recedes further into the future. So with virtually all the guys on the 2003 top list save for Jackson gone, most of the guys in the farm who will allegedly be anybody will be available no earlier than 2006/7, and many even later than that. It's not necessarily that it's a bad thing, but it is frustrating and adds to my perception that the farm is really overrated.
 
Just one more comment and I'm done.
If you go by BA's rankings, the Dodgers went from having no future (bottom 5 in talent rankings) to having a bright future (top 2 in talent rankings) in 2 years under Logan White.
How is that "future get farther and farther away"?
 
When is that help coming?!
 
Just saw your reply. Now I understand your thought process a little better, but I still think your perception that Dodgers farm being overrated is unfounded.

My point is that most pre-2002 draftees were not traded away, they just didn't produce. That's obviously not White's reponsibility. And they were never highly ranked by BA in the first place, so why do you think that the fact that pre-2002 draftees are mostly busts translates to Dodgers being overrated?

Number of Dodgers in BA top 100:
1999 1 at #41
2000 2 at #17,49
2001 1 at #86
2002 3 at #35,64,69
2003 3 at #34,35,99
2004 4 at #4,8,31,42
(2 were signed after 2002)
2005 7 at #5,19,30,62,74,89,100
(5 were signed after 2002)
From your list, Abercrombie, Thurston, Gonzalez, and Hanrahan never made the top 100 list.

A little help is coming in 2006, more help will come in 2007. That's what most people have been saying all along.
 
Also, didn't Jon's post at Dodgers Thoughts point out that Aybar and Navarro are producing already? Moreover, ready for mlb or not, Kuo and Broxton are strike-out machines at the mlb level already, that's something.
 
Aybar is an out-of-place 2B; I don't expect him to last once LaRoche gets a little closer. I'm Navarro-agnostic, though the OBP-average is encouraging. Kuo I must admit to not having seen pitch, but a 6.75 ERA in four innings isn't particularly impressive, and then there's the injury thing. Broxton's K-ability is nice and all, but he, too, owns a 6.75 ERA.

The latter two make for a good side-point: why keep hauling guys up from AA? Is it because the Dodgers' choice of AAA Las Vegas hurts their pitchers' confidence? If so, why are they there?
 
Four innings?
 
Sorry, 3.1 IP.
 
That wasn't really the point. I think the argument is not that Kuo is a "failure," but why the Dodgers dink around with garbage like Erickson on the roster for three months then give Kuo 3 innings at the major league level in the middle of a rebuilding year.
 
Okay, so taken under advisement. Still, I see two gaping flaws:

1) He's coming straight up from AA. For all the talk about how we're supposed to have patience, etc., how comes it that AAA doesn't exist?

2) The guy's an injury magnet.

Certainly agreed about Erickson, though.
 
first of all, i think it's 4 innings for kuo, and not that 4 innings means anything, but to be fair, this is the story of those 4 innings:

first 2 outings:

outing 1 (his debut, in colorado):
one lineout, 2 walks, and schmoll came in and let the walks come around to score (0.1 innings, 0H, 2 BB, 0K, 2ER)

outing 2 (in SF):
solo homer to barry bonds (0.0 innings, 1H, 0BB, 0K, 1ER, )

outings 3-6:
(3.2 innings, 1H, 3BB, 7K, 0ER)
 
and if you want to complain about the 3 walks, one of those was on a night when he'd pitched the night before and tracy called him in to "see how he would perform in back-to-back games. he faced one batter and walked him.

kuo is not a LOOGY.
 
1) Jason Grabowski has a 1.000 OPS in Vegas. Something tells me we learn very little about our pitchers' actual abilities in AAA anyway.

2) He can't get an injury throwing 99 in AA? We all care that he doesn't get another injury, but how does leaving him to die in AA prevent it?

I am basically with you on the minor league issues and Matt Welch on the organization adrift issues. I just think that burying Kuo (and Osoria and Schmoll, etc.) in the minors while giving innings to Erickson and God knows who else was getting innings is yet another example of time that could have been used constructively instead of wasted.

The DT posters I disagree with on this issue keep pointing out that the kids aren't going to be any good. They are talking past me. The season was over three months ago. They weren't meant to be good this year -- they were meant to get better for next year. Now, I'm guessing I will hear things like "We're going to rebuild for the future while contending in the present," which is fine as long as you're actually rebuilding for the future and not training your organization's garbage at the major league level. The Dodgers are like one huge Peter Principle writ large.
 
And Mike Edwards starts in left field.
 
I don't particularly like how the rookies are used in the majors or the location of the AAA club either. But those are separate issues from whether or not the Dodgers farm has enough good talents to warrant its good rankings in very recent years.

Rob:
So what if Aybar doesn't last when LaRoche takes over. Are Aybar(12.8 VORP and o.669 VORPr) and Navarro (9.5 VORP and 0.222 VORPr) not "help"? Did I not answer your question?

So are you using Kuo and Broxton's small sample ERA against them because the ERA's not pretty, but using Aybar and Navarro's small sample success against them as well because they're small samples?

I guess it's glass half full v.s. glass half empty.

If you haven't seen Kuo pitch, is it fair to call him a failure? How many times have you seen Broxton pitch? I remember that Kuo and Broxton's good night on 9/20 went unnoticed by you.

Steve:
Erikson's usage has nothing to do with Kuo's usage. Erickson was off the roster on July 30. At the time Kuo had pitched 14.1 innings above A ball.
You could argue that Erickson was blocking Houlton, Osoria, or Schmoll. But I would say those three eventually got enough innings in mlb in 05. Besides, keeping them in the minors would not have stopped their development. As long as they're playing consistently and not dominating their oppositions they will develop. Plus it may not be beneficial for their development if they're pitching in the big leagues before they're ready. I agree that Kuo should have been used more after he was called up. However considering he's probably tired from pitching a full season for the first time, I'm not that unhappy about him getting some rest.

Who do you think Edwards is blocking when he plays left field? I personally prefer Repko, Werth, Cruz for now. But you already think Repko is garbage.
 
When I think about Repko Grabowskiing up the roster in 2006, my eyes and ears start to bleed. What a mess.
 
Ron, this out-of-position talk with Aybar, do you know that Aybar played 3B originally? Presumably he was moved to 2B in 2004 because he didn't hit for enough power and he was blocked by Beltre. Once he showed he could handle 2B there would be no reason to move him back to 3B in the minors, since 2B is a harder position. Now that there's an opening for 3B in the majors it makes sense to let Aybar play 3B again. This way Aybar gets some at bats in the majors to develop his hitting and keeps him in the competition for the starting 2B job in 2007.
 
Wow Rob... 37 Comments. What did you do - call Frank Robinson a weenie?

And yes.... I do discount where Gutierrez and Hill are now. The farm serves two purposes: developing new players and developing trade fodder.
 

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