Saturday, May 1, 2010

Promote or not to promote - Grossman, Latimore, Marte

System-wide, the Pirates have a large number of prospects off to fantastic starts. By my estimate 27 could enter into at least a semi-serious discussion of "Should we promote this guy up the chain?"

I'd like to take a look at 3 of our OF prospects in this post: Robbie Grossman, Quincy Latimore, and Starling Marte.

Robbie Grossman is our 6th round pick from 2008, who we snatched up in the 6th (2nd round talent grade) because other clubs thought he was "unsignable" away from Texas. Well, if you work a kid for a summer and ask if he would like $1,000,000...he's signable.

Grossman came with a lot of fanfare and hype, due to that being NH's first draft and high-end HS talent was a rarity around these here parts. Last year, as a 19 year old in Low A, he survived but not thrived and posted a .266/.373/.355 triple slash line. He drew walks at over a 15% rate, but he had an unsustainable K rate of 36%. Plus, as you can see by the weak .355 SLG (and wretched 0.089 isolated power), there was not a lot of power (even doubles power) with only 5 HR's and 21 2B's. His defense was well-respected and he did steal 35 bases, though.

This year in High A, as a 20 year old, Grossman is off to a .309/.443/.418 start (861 OPS). His BB rate is just under 20% and his K rate is around 25%...still too high for someone that doesn't have a lot of power. He only has 3 2B's and 1 HR so far, (.109 isolated) but he also has 5 SB's. Essentially, he's putting up the same season as last year, but the numbers are buoyed by his high batting average.

My personal assessment is that I see no reason to promote Grossman this year. He is young for the level and seems to be a one-rung-at-a-time guy. It will interesting to see him progress. If he is still a low power, high SB guy (contrary to the projection of him having 20 HR's), I wonder where he will fit in Pittsburgh. His K rate is troubling, too, but he has other things to fall back on: his ability to walk, his defense, and his ability to steal.

Next up is one Quincy Latimore - a remnant from the atrocious 2007 draft put together one last time by David Littlefield and Friends. When not styling his hair with gel, DL drafted the exceptionally raw Latimore in the 4th round...a complete overdraft.

Last year, as a 20 year old in Low A, Latimore put up some counting stats that made a lot of people swoon -- 24 doubles, 10 triples, and 11 home runs. But his triple slash line of .251/.295/.411 (706 OPS) told a different story. Yes, the isolated power of .160 is very nice, but his BB rate of 5% and his K rate of just under 25% were not. It tells the story of being taken advantage of as you climb the ladder by better pitchers with better offspeed stuff.

And how does a player with 10 triples only steal 3 bases and be caught stealing 3 times? His defense in LF (13 errors, I believe) also left something to be desired. I very boldly have let my feelings be known that I did not consider Latimore to be a prospect, much to the dismay of some fellow OBN posters.

This year, as a 21 year old in High A, Latimore started off like a house on fire, but came back to earth somewhat by the end of April. He still put up a nice .298/.333/.476 (809 OPS) line to date. But he is also rocking the same 5% BB rate and 25% K rate as last year (and has zero stolen bases to boot). In essence, like Grossman, he is putting up the same season as last year but his hot start masks it somewhat.

Latimore is also a guy to keep at A+ all year and I still do not consider him a prospect, yet. Unlike Grossman, Latimore can not really rely on getting on base, stealing a base, or playing good defense. I fear he will crater at AA next year.

Last but certainly not least is Starling Marte. Marte is a very rare breed, thought to be extinct....he is a successful international free agent signed under the watch of Dave Littlefield. Last year, Marte exploded onto the scene with Low A as a 20 year old to the tune of a .312/.377/.439 (815 OPS). The isolated power was an acceptable .127, the stolen base count of 24 out of 31 attempts was sweet, and the reports of having one of (if not the most) the strongest arms in the system was fantastic. In short, he's on the fast track.

And out of the gate in 2010, as an age appropriate 21 year old in High A (with Grossman and Latimore...what an OF), he has not disappointed. He is at .345/.448/.473 so far (921 OPS) with 6 steals. He has yet to hit a HR, but many feel that it is only a matter of time before that aspect of his game develops. He struck out a touch too much last year, but so far this year he has a 10% BB rate and a 25% K rate.

Unlike Grossman and Latimore, I would promote Marte up the chain to AA Altoona.
Marte has better contact skills than either, has the SB speed, and the best defense of all 3. He needs to be challenged. At this point, I would consider him to be the top OF prospect in the system, even ahead of Jose Tabata...slightly bold statement considering they are the same age and Tabata is at AAA. I just feel like Marte is an untapped vessel still and Tabata may never develop the 25 HR power projected for him. Marte's defense and arm are better than Tabata's as well, plus he is a lean athlete...Tabata has a thick lower half, although he is very well conditioned this year.

I suspect that with the weather warming up and some players ready to leave Extended Spring Training, plus promotions to Pittsburgh soon, you will start to see the promotions up the chain of the minors. I hope Marte is one of the first to move.

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