Projecting the September Callups

Sept. 1 has come and gone, and that means a lot of prospects are getting a chance to show what they can do on the big league stage. Although an unusually good or bad September can form a strong impression, it’s important to remember we have a lot of information about each player’s performance in the minor leagues to judge their future potential. With that in mind, let’s examine eight recent callups’ expected performance in 2007 and beyond. The following projections were developed via FIPro, a projection system that accounts for park and league effects of past and future contexts, while considering comparable minor leaguers’ development.

Alexi Casilla

Minnesota Twins | Position: Shortstop | DOB: 7/20/1984

Casilla was a surprise callup from Double-A New Britain. The infielder is expected to fill in at second base while Luis Castillo recovers from a minor ankle injury.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006   A+  .331 .390 .406
2006   AA  .294 .375 .382
PROJECTED
2007  AAA  .300 .354 .380
2008  MLB  .281 .334 .365	
2009  MLB  .286 .341 .370

He is fast and slick-fielding, but Twins fans should not expect much offense from Casilla this September. If he had trouble hitting the ball out of the infield in the Eastern League, then he isn’t going to do much with the bat in the American League. Casilla is patient at the plate and a decent contact hitter, so this shouldn’t be a complete disaster. His long-term projection suggests he could be an everyday player for a team looking for a good defensive shortstop. Casilla was 50-for-60 in stolen base attempts this year, and his projection suggests he has the upside to hit at the top of a major league lineup some day.

Rajai Davis

Pittsburgh Pirates | Position: Outfield | DOB: 10/19/1980

The fleet-footed outfielder was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-August. He has mostly been used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement in the outfield since then.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AAA  .283 .335 .348
PROJECTED
2007  MLB  .258 .313 .334
2008  MLB  .264 .317 .343
2009  MLB  .260 .315 .339	

Davis is not particularly patient at the plate and his walk rate has declined over the past two years. That’s not a positive development, because otherwise he might be productive enough to lead off for the Pirates in the not-too-distant future. Davis’ speed and ability to steal bases is easily his best skill. He stole 90 bases in 112 attempts during his most recent two minor league seasons.

At worst, he looks like a useful fifth outfielder and pinch runner for next year’s Pirates team.

Kevin Kouzmanoff

Cleveland Indians | Position: Third Base | DOB: 7/25/1981

Andy Marte is Cleveland’s future at third base, right?

Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a grand slam in his first major league plate plate appearance two days ago.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006   AA  .389	.449 .660
2006  AAA  .353 .409 .647
PROJECTED
2007  AAA  .321 .373 .531
2008  MLB  .292 .344 .491
2009  MLB  .301 .355 .518	

Kouzmanoff has always been a little older than the top prospects at each league, so it has been easy to downplay his accomplishments until this year. He’s done nothing but hit during the past three seasons, however, and now he’s making a case for playing time in Cleveland. Kouzmanoff has been hampered by occasional back injuries recently, but his projection suggests he could be an above-average big leaguer at third base.

The Indians have some tough decisions to make in the near future. He could return to Triple-A Buffalo next Spring, but he’s probably already good enough to contribute to Cleveland’s lineup. If the organization is committed to keeping Marte at third base, Kouzmanoff could always split time between designated hitter and the corner infield positions next year.

Adam Lind

Toronto Blue Jays | Position: Outfield | DOB: 7/17/1983

Adam Lind was outstanding in 34 games since his promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. He earned a surprise callup to Toronto last Thursday and hit a double in his first big league game on Saturday.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AA   .310 .357 .543
2006  AAA  .394 .496 .596
PROJECTED
2007  AAA  .297 .355 .490
2008  MLB  .283 .339 .468
2009  MLB  .288 .347 .485

It looks like Lind could hold his own in the big leagues if Toronto needed him in the lineup next year, but the 23-year-old will probably spend at least half of next season refining his game in the International League. Lind’s plate discipline is still a work in progress; he recorded strike outs nearly four times as often as he walked during his stint in the Eastern League this year. He got on base via the walk more regularly last month, but that’s partly because he was being pitched around in the bottom of the Syracuse lineup. Lind also looks like a first baseman playing the outfield. I’ve witnessed some painfully awkward routes when opponents hit line drives his way, and Lind simply needs more experience before becoming a real option for the Blue Jays outfield. For now, the Jays will probably use Lind as a designated hitter and pinch hitter during the month of September.

Despite of all these concerns, Lind’s long-term projection looks excellent. His bat will probably be good enough to justify a starting role wherever his glove takes him. Expect big things from Lind by 2009.

Dustin Pedroia

Boston Red Sox | Position: Shortstop/Second Base | DOB: 8/17/1983

Dustin Pedroia was promoted to Boston when the Red Sox placed shortstop Alex Gonzalez on the disabled list two weeks ago. Pedroia has made most of his starts at second base, and has struggled during his first 10 games in the big leagues.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AAA  .305. 384 .426
PROJECTED
2007  MLB  .289 .357 .415
2008  MLB  .290 .356 .414	
2009  MLB  .295 .364 .426

For the second year in a row, Toronto’s Aaron Hill looks like one of Pedroia’s top statistical comparison players. I expect Pedroia’s 2007 season to resemble Aaron Hill’s 2006 season; good enough offensive production for a middle infielder, but nothing special. Pedroia is patient at the plate and an even better contact hitter than Hill, however, so he may eventually have a couple seasons where he hits over .300 and gets on base more often than any other player at his position. Pedroia was a shortstop at Pawtucket for most of the 2006 season, but he occasionally made starts at second base. His role with next year’s Red Sox team is undetermined because they have potential openings at both shortstop and second base.

Geovany Soto

Chicago Cubs | Position: Catcher | DOB: 1/20/1983

Soto will get some starts with the Cubs because Michael Barrett was recently placed on the disabled list after taking a foul tip to the groin.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AAA  .272 .353 .386
PROJECTED
2007  MLB  .247 .328 .353	
2008  MLB  .248 .325 .356
2009  MLB  .250 .329 .359

Soto probably won’t ever hit enough to earn a starting role with a major league team, but he’s slowly making the improvements he needs to. He’s always demonstrated patience at the plate, but he also started making contact more consistently and showing some power at the plate during his 2006 campaign with the Iowa Cubs.

He’s advanced enough to become a useful backup catcher who is also an asset versus left-handed pitching.

Ryan Sweeney

Chicago White Sox | Position: Outfield | DOB: 2/20/1985

The White Sox’ top hitting prospect was called up to join the team in the middle of the American League pennant race. Ozzie Guillen says he won’t hesitate to use Sweeney in lieu of struggling outfielder Scott Podsednik this month.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AAA  .296 .350 .452
PROJECTED
2007  MLB  .271 .319 .393
2008  MLB  .274 .321 .401	
2009  MLB  .277 .326 .409

As I documented in last week’s article, Sweeney has made some remarkable progress this year. He started the year as a good hitter without much power, but looked like a prototypical slugging corner outfielder by August. His long-term projection is OK, but consider the above numbers a low estimate if you believe Sweeney’s hot second half is sustainable. I expect Sweeney to earn a starting role with the White Sox by 2008.

Delmon Young

Tampa Bay Devil Rays | Position: Outfield | DOB: 9/14/1985

Baseball’s most well-known prospect made his major league debut last week. Young has 9 hits, including 4 extra-base hits, in his first 20 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.

YEAR LEVEL  AVG  OBP  SLG  
ACTUAL
2006  AAA  .316 .341 .474
PROJECTED
2007  MLB  .285 .319 .454
2008  MLB  .280 .314 .438
2009  MLB  .279 .314 .442		

Young has hit for some power since returning from his 50-game suspension in June, but his batted-ball charts suggest he simply isn’t pulling the ball in the air very often. The projection system identifies fellow Tampa Bay outfielder Rooco Baldelli as a relevant comparison due to their similar performances at a young age. Most everyone believes Delmon will eventually develop more power than Baldelli, but the two could very well end up being similar types of players over the next few years: aggressive hitters who can use their ability to make contact and above-average speed to post nice-looking batting averages and hit lots of doubles.

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