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Prospect Central: Volume Nineteen

By Aaron Gleeman

Hello and welcome to Prospect Central.  Throughout the season, I will be looking at prospects around baseball each and every week in the insiderbaseball.com premium area, from standouts in rookie ball to polished studs who just made their major league debuts.

FREDDY GUZMAN – OF

Organization: San Diego Padres

Bats: Switch

DOB: 1/20/1981

 

YEAR

LVL

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

2B

3B

BB

SO

SB

2002

A

190

.279

.341

.368

0

7

5

18

37

39

 

A

80

.225

.293

.275

0

2

1

7

15

16

 

A

81

.259

.326

.333

1

3

0

8

12

14

2003

A

281

.285

.375

.370

2

12

3

40

60

49

 

AA

177

.271

.368

.339

1

5

2

26

34

38

2004

AA

138

.283

.370

.359

1

5

2

16

28

17

 

AAA

264

.292

.365

.379

1

12

4

30

46

48

I think the plan in San Diego was for Jay Payton, who they signed to a two-year deal this off-season, to man center field for this year and perhaps a couple months into next year, at which point he’d give way to Freddy Guzman.

Guzman held up his end of the bargain, doing well at both Double-A and Triple-A, but Payton was a disaster.  After hitting .302/.354/.512 with the Rockies last year (including .281/.330/.483 on the road), Payton slumped to .235/.298/.324 this season. 

The Padres, despite being in serious contention for a playoff spot with Payton’s awful play, decided they had seen enough, calling Guzman up from Triple-A Portland on August 18.  At 23 years old, and with just 579 at-bats above Single-A, Guzman is now the starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter for a contender.

When I look at Guzman, I see an intriguing player, but one with some serious flaws  He hits for solid batting averages, draws plenty of walks and has extraordinary base running ability, but he has almost zero power and actually strikes out an awful lot, particularly for someone who isn’t hitting anything other than singles.

However, I asked Vinay Kumar, a Padres fan friend of mine and fellow writer at The Hardball Times, what he expected out of Guzman this year and he said, “All he has to do to be better than Payton is play solid defense in center field and get on base a little bit.”  Flaws or not, those are two things Guzman can do.

I think a good comp for the player Guzman can become is probably Juan Pierre of the Marlins.  Like Guzman, Pierre is a diminutive centerfielder/leadoff man who hits some singles, gets on base and is a burner on the base paths.  And, like Guzman, Pierre has almost no power to speak of.

However, if you look back at Pierre’s performances in the minors you see some real differences.  While they are and were very much similar players, Pierre’s stats were much better in some very key areas.

For one thing, while Guzman draws more walks than Pierre did, he also strikes out far more often than Pierre.  In 149 total games between Double-A and Triple-A, Guzman drew 72 walks and struck out 109 times, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.51-to-1.  Meanwhile, in 111 total games between Double-A and Triple-A, Pierre walked 33 times and struck out 26 times, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.79-to-1.

While Guzman certainly has very good plate discipline, I am of the belief that it is going to be a lot harder for him to draw walks in the majors because of his complete lack of power.  Because of that, his walk rate in the minors, although good, is not quite the asset it initially appears to be.  At the same time, I think the ability to control the strike zone, which is represented by strikeout-to-walk ratio, is more important.

In the majors, Pierre has maintained a similar strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 161 career strikeouts and 175 career walks, a 0.92-to-1 ratio.  Pierre’s ability to hit singles and use his speed is in no small way because of his ability to make contact and control the strike zone, whereas Guzman doesn’t have the same type of skills.

In addition to that, Pierre’s minor league batting averages were far better than Guzman’s.  In his three main stops in the minors, Pierre batted .352, .320 and .326.  Guzman hit .348 during his first taste of the pros, back in 2001, but has yet to hit even .300 at any level since then.

As for the lack of power and the incredible running ability, Guzman and Pierre are dead ringers for each other.  First, check out their Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) in the minors …

LEVEL                                      PIERRE            GUZMAN

Rookie/Single-A                            .063                   .084

Double-A/Triple-A                          .056                   .080

That’s really almost no power, particularly considering a lot of that “power” is a result of their great speed being able to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples.  To put those numbers into some context, consider that the lowest Isolated Power by any major league hitter who currently qualifies for the batting title comes from David Eckstein, at .054.  Pierre himself is at .081, which shows that he has developed his power a little since being in the minors.

I think Freddy Guzman will be an upgrade over Jay Payton this season and will likely be a very solid player for San Diego for a lot of years.  However, I don’t think he’ll walk as often as he did in the minors and I think his relative propensity to strikeout will hurt him as a slap-hitter.

Still, like Vinay suggested, if he can play some defense and get on base, he can definitely make himself useful.  For fantasy purposes, Guzman’s potential stolen base dominance is very interesting.  He stole 65 bases at an 87% clip in just 101 minor league games this season, after stealing 90 bases in 118 games last year.  He’s a definite 50-steal threat in the majors.

Gleeman long-term grade: B

 

JEFF KEPPINGER – 2B

Organization: New York Mets

Bats: Right

DOB: 4/21/1980

 

YEAR

LVL

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

2B

3B

BB

SO

SB

2002

A

478

.276

.344

.404

10

23

4

47

33

6

2003

A

342

.325

.365

.424

3

21

2

23

28

3

2004

AA

370

.338

.389

.416

1

20

3

33

19

12

Originally Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick in 2001, Jeff Keppinger came over to the Mets in last month’s three-way deal that also brought Kris Benson to the Big Apple.  Keppinger was essentially a toss-in in the deal, the least talked about of the six total players involved, but he has a chance to be a decent player.

After hitting .325 at Single-A last year, Keppinger was hitting .338 at Double-A this season when the Mets called him up.  The problem with Keppinger is that he seems to have traded much of his power for the ability hit for a higher batting average.

Back in 2002, Keppinger hit only .276, but smacked 10 homers in 478 at-bats.  Then last year he hit .325 and had just three homers in 342 at-bats.  This season is even worse, with only a single homer in 370 at-bats.  Take a look at how Keppinger’s Isolated Power has plummeted …

YEAR               IsoP

2002                 .128

2003                 .099

2004                 .078

Part of that comes from moving up to higher levels of competition, but you’d also expect him to add power as he matures.  As it stands now, Keppinger is basically a slap-hitter, albeit a good one.

With both Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui hurting, Keppinger was called up to help out in the middle infield.  With those two around, his future in New York isn’t very bright, but he could certainly do a nice job as a utility man.

Overall, Keppinger just isn’t a very good prospect.  He’s not a great defender, he doesn’t draw any walks, he doesn’t have great speed, and he hasn’t hit for any power in two years.  The batting averages are very nice, but sometimes it takes more than that.

Gleeman long-term grade: C

JIMMY SERRANO – P

Organization: Kansas City Royals

Throws: Right

DOB: 5/9/1976

YEAR

LVL

IP

ERA

SO

BB

H

HR

2002

AAA

74

4.01

76

31

88

3

2003

AAA

77

2.69

75

30

63

4

2004

AA

64

1.96

74

18

42

6

 

AAA

32

5.01

41

21

32

4

Jim Serrano is one of those unknown minor league veterans who could likely do just as well as any number of longtime major league pitchers, if only some team would give him a chance.  After seven years in the minors, the Royals have finally called Serrano up to the big leagues and have inserted him into their starting rotation.  Through his first three starts, Serrano is 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA in 17.2 innings.

The interesting thing about Serrano being in Kansas City’s rotation is that he was a reliever for nearly his entire minor league career.  Prior to this season, he had appeared in 275 games as a reliever and just one game as a starter.  This year, he spent the first part starting at Double-A Wichita, going 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 11 starts, before moving up to Triple-A Omaha and pitching out of the bullpen.

Serrano’s success as a starter at Double-A this year is encouraging, although I think the most likely scenario for him to succeed in is as a middle reliever/long reliever/spot starter type.  For his entire career, he has a 36-26 record and 3.05 ERA in 509.2 innings pitched.  He’s done a very nice job with his secondary numbers, striking out 589 batters (10.4/9) while walking just 216.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Serrano could give some team a couple years of league-average pitching for the major-league minimum.  On a team like the Royals, that would have a lot of value.

Gleeman long-term grade: C

 

JORGE de la ROSA – P

Organization: Milwaukee Brewers

Throws: Left

DOB: 4/5/1981    

YEAR

LVL

IP

ERA

SO

BB

H

HR

2002

A

121

3.65

95

52

105

10

 

AA

18

5.50

15

9

17

0

2003

AA

100

2.80

102

36

87

6

 

AAA

24

3.75

17

12

27

0

2004

AAA

72

4.90

77

33

66

9

Originally signed by the Boston Red Sox, Jorge de la Rosa was sent to the Diamondbacks in the Curt Schilling deal this off-season.  Then, about a week after that, he was traded again, this time to the Brewers, for Richie Sexson.

He’s got very good raw stuff, and de la Rosa’s strikeout rate has always been good.  In 2002, he struck out 110 batters in 139 innings between Single-A and Double-A (7.1/9), and then struck out 119 batters in 124 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year (8.6/9).  This year, de la Rosa has been limited to just 72 innings, but he has 77 strikeouts (9.6/9), along with 33 walks and a .250 batting average against.

The Brewers are no doubt extremely happy with the return they’ve already gotten from the Sexson deal, with Lyle Overbay entrenched at first base and Craig Counsell, Junior Spivey, Chris Capuano and Chad Moeller making contributions this year.   If de la Rosa can live up to his potential, the deal will look even better.

Gleeman long-term grade: B

 

CRAIG BRAZELL – 1B

Organization: New York Mets

Bats: Left

DOB: 5/10/1980

YEAR

LVL

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

2B

3B

BB

SO

SB

2002

A

402

.266

.292

.463

16

25

3

13

78

2

 

AA

130

.308

.343

.508

6

8

0

1

28

0

2003

AA

432

.292

.331

.472

17

23

2

23

97

2

 

AAA

46

.261

.292

.326

0

3

0

1

8

1

2004

AAA

433

.266

.297

.464

21

19

2

18

91

1

Craig Brazell has everything a major league first baseman needs except for one very crucial thing: Some semblance of plate discipline.  Prior to this year, Brazell hit for solid averages, and he’s always shown nice power.  And he strikes out, but not an incredible amount.

The one thing missing from his repertoire is the ability to work counts, control the strike zone and draw walks.  In 2002, Brazell drew a total of 14 walks in 135 games.  Last year, he drew 24 walks in 123 games.  This year, he had 18 walks in 111 games prior to being called up by the Mets.

A first baseman drawing 15-20 walks over the course of entire minor league seasons is just ridiculously bad.  You would think Brazell could coax a couple dozen walks simply out of having 20-homer power.  Yet he doesn’t, and that is what will keep him from being a good major league hitter.

He might hit .275, he might smack 20 homers and 30 doubles, and he might play decent defense.  But if you’re drawing a walk every dozen games, you’re just making far too many outs to play first base at the major league level.

Gleeman long-term grade: C

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2004 Archives (Exclusive for Members): 

Volume 1  AARON MILES – 2B  TERRMEL SLEDGE – OF JOE MAUER – C KHALIL GREENE – SS  BOBBY CROSBY – SS  JASON BAY – OF

Volume 2  CASEY DAIGLE - P  HECTOR LUNA – SS DAVID AARDSMA - P CHRIS SHELTON – 1B/C JOSE CASTILLO – 2B/SS  RYAN WAGNER - P

Volume 3 MATT HOLLIDAY – OF JASON FRASOR - P ALEX GRAMAN - P  ADRIAN GONZALEZ – 1B CHAD TRACY – 3B/OF

Volume 4 BRIAN DALLIMORE – IF  FRANKLYN GRACESQUI - P DARNELL McDONALD – OF KAZUHITO TADANO - P VALENTINO PASCUCCI – OF

Volume 5 BRAD HAWPE – OF DANNY GARCIA – IF BRIAN BRUNEY - P WILSON BETEMIT – IF

Volume 6 CASEY KOTCHMAN – 1B DOUG DeVORE – OF FELIX DIAZ - P DANIEL CABRERA – P RYAN MADSON - P

Volume 7  ZACK GREINKE - P NICK GREEN – 2B KEVIN YOUKILIS – 3B JAMIE BROWN – P FRANK FRANCISCO - P

Volume 8   CLINT NAGEOTTE - P JUSTIN GERMANO – P ANDY DOMINIQUE – 1B/C ALEX RIOS – OF SEAN BURNETT - P

Volume 9   TODD LINDEN – OF YADIER MOLINA – C MATT TREANOR – C CHOO FREEMAN – OF BEN HENDRICKSON - P

Volume 10  JUAN DOMINGUEZ - P ARNIE MUNOZ - P JON KNOTT – OF/1B TIM RAINES JR. – OF ROBB QUINLAN – OF/1B

Volume 11  MATT GUERRIER - P  ANDY GREEN – 2B  BRAD HALSEY - P  NOAH LOWRY - P TOP FIVE KEEPER TARGETS FROM THE 2004 DRAFT

Volume 12 MIKE WOOD - P DAVID DeJESUS – OF MARK TEAHEN  – 3B JOHN BUCK  – C MIKE TONIS  – C

Volume 13 DAVID NEWHAN – IF/OF DAVID BUSH - P  JUSTIN LEONE  – 3B  TRAVIS BLACKLEY - P  JUAN BRITO  – C

Volume 14 CHARLES THOMAS – OF CHRIS BURKE  – 2B JOSH WILLINGHAM  – C/1B BRENDAN HARRIS  – IF MARCUS THAMES – OF

Volume 15 DAVID WRIGHT – 3B GRADY SIZEMORE  – OF BUCKY JACOBSEN  – DH  NOOK LOGAN  – OF BOBBY MADRITSCH – P

Volume 16  SCOTT KAZMIR – P JUSTIN JONES – P BILL MURPHY – P HENRI STANLEY – OF REGGIE ABERCROMBIE  – OF Justin Huber Brendan Harris

Volume 17  JESSE CRAIN – P B.J. UPTON – SS YHENCY BRAZOBAN – P MERKIN VALDEZ – P RUBEN GOTAY  – 2B

Volume 18 GABE GROSS – OF BRAD HENNESSEY – P RYAN SNARE – P JAIRO GARCIA – P CHA-SEUNG BAEK – P

Volume 19 FREDDY GUZMAN – OF  JEFF KEPPINGER – 2B JIMMY SERRANO – P JORGE de la ROSA – P CRAIG BRAZELL – 1B

Volume 20 10) Mark Teahen  9) Wilson Valdez 8) Josh Kroeger 7) Rick Ankiel 6) Eric Crozier 5) Jason Kubel 4) Garret Atkins 3) Casey Kotchman 2) Edwin Jackson 1) Jose Capellan

Volume 21 6) Jeremy Guthrie, Cleveland Indians 5) Russ Adams, Toronto Blue Jays 4) Dave Krynzel, Milwaukee Brewers 3) Gavin Floyd, Philadelphia Phillies 2) Nick Swisher, Oakland A’s 1) Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

Volume 22 Dallas McPherson, Anaheim Angels  J.D. Durbin, Minnesota Twins  Jeremy Reed, Seattle Mariners  Mike Gosling, Arizona Diamondbacks  Dioner Navarro, New York Yankees  Logan Kensing, Florida Marlins  Greg Dobbs, Seattle Mariners  Carmen Cali, St. Louis Cardinals

Volume 23 Dan Johnson, Andy Phillips, Curtis Granderson, Dan Meyer, Victor Diaz

Volume 24 Jason Bay, Khalil Greene, Bobby Crosby, Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Justin Morneau, Adam LaRoche, Scott Hairston, David Wright, Noah Lowry

 

2003 Archives: 

Volume 1  JERIOME ROBERTSON – SP COLBY LEWIS – SP KURT AINSWORTH – SP GARY KNOTTS – SP JOSH STEWART – SP  OSCAR VILLARREAL – SP MARK TEIXEIRA – 3B/1B

Volume 2  ERICK ALMONTE – SS  ROCCO BALDELLI – OF JEREMY BONDERMAN – SP  RICH HARDEN – SP AARON HEILMAN – SP JESSE FOPPERT – SP

Volume  3  COCO CRISP – OF ALEXIS GOMEZ – OF JOHN-FORD GRIFFIN – OF GRADY SIZEMORE – OF B.J. UPTON – SS HANLEY RAMIREZ – SS

Volume  4  JASON GRABOWSKI – OF/C/3B/1B AARON TAYLOR – RP LEW FORD – OF  JASON LANE – OF  FREDDY SANCHEZ – 2B/SS ROBB QUINLAN – OF

Volume  5  JEROME WILLIAMS – SP CLAUDIO VARGAS – SP CHASE UTLEY – 2B/3B JODY GERUT – OF JASON BAY – OF

Volume  6 GERALD LAIRD – C ANDREW GOOD – SP KIRK SAARLOOS – SP TODD SEARS – 1B WILLIE HARRIS – OF/2B JOSE REYES – SS

Volume  7 Top Ten Hitting Prospects

Volume  8 Top Ten Pitching Prospects

Volume  9 JOHNNY ESTRADA  – C BUBBA CROSBY – OF ROB STRATTON – OF JUSTIN DUCHSCHERER - SP ESIX SNEAD – OF CHONE FIGGINS – IF

Volume  10  DONTRELLE WILLIS - SP ANTONIO PEREZ – SS/2B JASON PHILLIPS – C/1B JASON YOUNG - SP PAT STRANGE - SP

Volume  11 NICK SWISHER – OF/1B ANDY MARTE – 3B PRINCE FIELDER – 1B BRAD NELSON – 1B/OF JUSTIN HUBER – C

Volume  12 DAVID KELTON 3B/1B/OF JHONNY PERALTA – SS/3B  ZACH SORENSEN – IF  MIKE NAKAMURA – RP  EDGAR GONZALEZ – SP

Volume  13  MATT KATA – 2B  FRANCISCO SANTOS – 1B/OF JOSE VALVERDE – RP  MARIO RAMOS – SP BO HART – 2B

Volume  14 DAVE MATRANGA – IF  RODRIGO ROSARIO – SP  BRANDON CLAUSSEN – SP  CARLOS VALDERRAMA – OF  CARLOS RIVERA – 1B

Volume  15 CODY ROSS – OF DAN HAREN – SP JIMMY JOURNELL – SP MIKE GALLO – RP NATE BUMP – SP

Volume  16 LAYNCE NIX – OF LUIS TERRERO – OF  EDWIN ALMONTE – RP  JASON STANFORD – SP CHRIS MEARS – RP

Volume  17 ALEJANDRO MACHADO – IF VICTOR DIAZ – IF RYAN SNARE – SP WILL SMITH – OF ADRIAN GONZALEZ – 1B

Volume  18 RICH HARDEN – SP RENE REYES – OF RYAN WAGNER – RP MARK MALASKA – RP CHIN-HUI TSAO – SP

Volume  19 RYAN HANNAMAN – SP JOE VALENTINE – RP KENNY KELLY – OF PHIL DUMATRAIT – SP

Volume  20  GARRETT ATKINS – 3B  JIMMY GOBBLE – SP JON SWITZER – SP JOSH HALL – SP AARON LOOPER – RP

Volume  21 DERNELL STENSON – 1B/OF NEAL COTTS – SP J.J. PUTZ – RP JON ADKINS – SP

Volume  22  JOSE LOPEZ – SS  JASON STOKES – 1B   MIGUEL CABRERA – 3B  JEFF MATHIS – C  CASEY KOTCHMAN – 1B

Volume  23 JUSTIN MORNEAU – 1B JOSE REYES – SS  VICTOR MARTINEZ – C JOE MAUER – C  MARK TEIXEIRA – 1B/3B

Volume  24  JEROME WILLIAMS - SP  JEREMY BONDERMAN - SP JASON ARNOLD - SP CLINT NAGEOTTE - SP ADAM WAINWRIGHT - SP

Volume  25 GAVIN FLOYD - SP SCOTT KAZMIR - SP  FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ - RP RICH HARDEN - SP  JESSE FOPPERT - SP

Volume  26 RICKIE WEEKS – 2B  BOBBY CROSBY – SS KHALIL GREENE – SS EDWIN JACKSON - SP MATT RILEY - SP

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