2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby Transmogrified Tiger » Thu Jan 07, 2016 1:58 pm

The gap between #2 and # 15 in the system is as narrow as it has ever been, so almost any permutation can be justified. That said, I'm not overly swayed by the commentary for those that seem out of line. Almora's report especially seems to underscore Craig's point about seeing a guy's swing at a point in time, especially given the more thorough reporting we've seen elsewhere about his swing adjustment post-Team USA.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:54 pm

toonsterwu wrote:Don't get me wrong, I am fine with "gut feeling" as a component of prospect ranking. After all, we're projecting kids whose bodies haven't physically matured yet ... and more importantly, haven't mentally matured yet (remember when Mark Pawelek was supposed to be a superbly mature 18 year old?). I just think he places an abnormally high amount of gut feeling calls on certain prospects. I'm too lazy to dig up his other lists, but there was a Braves pitching prospect that engendered a crap ton of discussion by folks in the comments.

I don't mind Contreras' ranking, but the read of that is essentially: here's a talented kid, my Cubs sources say they rank him top 5, he has shown defensive potential and offensive improvement/potential, but I'm ranking him lower than most because my gut feeling says so even though his talent deserves to be higher. To me, if you are supposed to be doing prospect rankings for official sites, you need to be able to blend in all the components.


- Don't recall Pawelek for anything but a weird delivery, high ceiling, and Boras as his agent.

The Contreras writeup was probably the most spot on writeup there. I mean that in the sense that I agree, but yeah didn't seem like much gut there. He praised the right things, his plate discipline did improve this year and drove his season, and knocked the right things - basically that he's still raw defensively, is inconsistent enough with his throws, and has a swing that might be exploited by highest level pitching. He was fair to acknowledge what any Cubs sources said, but not obligated to it.

He could easily have just stuck Contreras at 2 with that same writeup and gotten away with it. The positions players between Torres and Jimenez on the list are all fungible like that, and Contreras is the hot hand right now.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby Duke Silver » Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:55 pm

Transmogrified Tiger wrote:The gap between #2 and # 15 in the system is as narrow as it has ever been, so almost any permutation can be justified. That said, I'm not overly swayed by the commentary for those that seem out of line. Almora's report especially seems to underscore Craig's point about seeing a guy's swing at a point in time, especially given the more thorough reporting we've seen elsewhere about his swing adjustment post-Team USA.


Eh, I agree the gap between most of these guys is narrow, so one guy seeming out of place isn't a big deal. But, I don't think it's such a narrow gap that multiple guys seeming out of place can be justified. I think most permutations can be justified, but not this one. With such a narrow gap, one guy rising or falling isn't a big deal -- it's probably just a matter of personal preference. But, this thing just looks bad... and wrong. There's too much in there that I can't really fathom.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby craig » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:39 pm

1. I don't care very much about the sequencing. What I care about, as Tom noted, is what the scouting insights are. As Tom noted, if the scouting eval on Contreras is insightful or informative, that's what matters to me, not whether he's #2 or #9.

2. On my personal list, I had Vogelbach at #40. (Where's the value for a DH who hit 7 HR?) I think Farnsworth having him 6th is silly, but the perspective that he played most of the season with hamstring/oblique injuries that can sap power, and that in this one evaluator's opinion his stroke should be conducive to lift and HR's and they might still come after all, that's helpful and encouraging.

3. Obviously a guy who's ranking Vogelbach as #6, it makes you question the evaluation skills of such guy.

4. I don't care what number Hudson is; but the report from Cubs people that he was throwing 91-93 regularly (up a couple of mph) in fall, and has added 20 pounds, that's really interesting.

5. Most of his write-ups seemed pretty decent and reasonable to me, based on what's been said by other people. (Well, maybe other than Law on Vogelbach....)

6. I also think it's just fine to give his own evaluation, why not? That's what scouts in real orgs do.

7. Also think it's representative of how variant different scouts, often perfectly respectable and intelligent ones, can be on the same player. My guess is that if you get 10 different scouts on Baez, their evals would be all over the place. Law and Badler, totally different reports on Martinez. This Farnsworth dude having some that seem a little different from the mainstream, happens all the time.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:11 am

I probably shouldn't have engaged, as I don't care enough to really follow up, but I tried to make the note that, if someone wanted to rank Vogelbach lower because of his value, then that's a justifiable way to look at things. This Farnsworth kid seemed to take quick offense to things, saying he wasn't making trade value lists, which isn't what I was referencing. He seemed utterly dismissive of the idea of value ... but any rankings is essentially a value judgment.

Oh well, I think he provided a lot of intriguing information, but I think there's often "viewer's bias" when you see guys (I know I certainly felt that way when I had more time in the past). I forget who it was, but several years ago, I saw a Cubs arm that was throwing 3-4 ticks higher than most. To this day, I don't know if it was the stadium or just an odd, warm day, but I clung to that belief for a long time even though every other report said otherwise (I want to say it was Willengton Cruz or Luis Liria, but that doesn't seem right timeline wise). I also think he places a lot of emphasis on floor in comparison to ceiling (or maybe another way to state it is that he seems to value the potential to reach a ceiling a lot more than ceiling). That's fair, and every ranking is simply for fans to discuss things.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:19 am

Duke Silver wrote:
Transmogrified Tiger wrote:The gap between #2 and # 15 in the system is as narrow as it has ever been, so almost any permutation can be justified. That said, I'm not overly swayed by the commentary for those that seem out of line. Almora's report especially seems to underscore Craig's point about seeing a guy's swing at a point in time, especially given the more thorough reporting we've seen elsewhere about his swing adjustment post-Team USA.


Eh, I agree the gap between most of these guys is narrow, so one guy seeming out of place isn't a big deal. But, I don't think it's such a narrow gap that multiple guys seeming out of place can be justified. I think most permutations can be justified, but not this one. With such a narrow gap, one guy rising or falling isn't a big deal -- it's probably just a matter of personal preference. But, this thing just looks bad... and wrong. There's too much in there that I can't really fathom.


I actually think that the gap is that narrow that you could get multiple guys "out of place". I made the argument ... here? ... that Zagunis at two isn't that ridiculous, and I still hold to that (although I wouldn't rank him at 2 if I made a list now). We've got a solid system overall, but there's enough warts on every single player, whether it's performance or ceiling, that I am fine with severe disagreements (let's say ... rankings that seem "out of place" by 3-4 slots).

I mean, just taking random names, but if

a - Someone wanted to rank Candelario at 2, I wouldn't have a problem with it. You'd be buying the bat improvement and that he'll stick at 3rd, but if all that is true, then that's a very valuable asset. Most wouldn't have him that high right now (and I wouldn't), but I think there's a case if you buy the improvement, particularly since he did it in AA.

b - Someone wanted to rank Cease 1. Cease has the type of ceiling that really could justify it.

c - Someone wanted to drop Zagunis out of the top 20. There, decided to throw that in for fun, but if you question his ability to hit for power, you could view Zagunis as a fringe Aoki/Markakis type bat, and those types of bat succeeding is still more the exception than the rule.

One thing the new Fangraphs kid is right about is that there does tend to be a level of groupthink on prospects. That's not necessarily wrong, but with such a narrow gap for the Cubs prospects this year, I do think multiple guys "out of place" shouldn't be shocking.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Fri Jan 08, 2016 9:18 pm

Total side note, but finally got around to seeing AzPhil's 2016 Rule 5 Watch List. Dang, that's a lot of semi-intriguing guys right now that could end up being available. Never know what's going to happen over the season, as guys will rise and fall, but sure seems like we should end up losing a guy or two next season.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:45 pm

toonsterwu wrote:Total side note, but finally got around to seeing AzPhil's 2016 Rule 5 Watch List. Dang, that's a lot of semi-intriguing guys right now that could end up being available. Never know what's going to happen over the season, as guys will rise and fall, but sure seems like we should end up losing a guy or two next season.


The interesting ones will pretty much all be traded.

Caratini's a guy I like. He's secretly the best all around C prospect in the system. Of the legit C prospects in the system, he has the best glove. He walked almost 12% of the time without piling up the K's (16.5%) and put up 36 XBHs (8%) playing C in a tough league to hit. Switch hits....Not the next Buster Posey, but the baseball world needs Ryan Hanigans too or something.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby jersey cubs fan » Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:05 pm

toonsterwu wrote:Total side note, but finally got around to seeing AzPhil's 2016 Rule 5 Watch List. Dang, that's a lot of semi-intriguing guys right now that could end up being available. Never know what's going to happen over the season, as guys will rise and fall, but sure seems like we should end up losing a guy or two next season.

That's a situation born to sort itself out.
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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:22 am

Don't want to make it seem like I'm gushing over the players on that list. Of course things will sort itself out. Just don't recall a year, since the new rules were put in place and AzPhil was publishing his lists to save time from thinking, where it seemed like we started off with so many semi-intriguing guys (even my own usage of semi- indicate that I'm not absolutely in love with all of them). Really, the only big, on-paper names are Almora and Underwood, and if they simply don't take a step back, they will likely get protected, if they aren't traded. I've been big on Caratini. Called it a steal when we got him, and I think I said awhile ago that that I'm not sure the gap from Contreras to Caratini is all that great. Still has to work on defensive improvements, and offensively, strong finish, but he can't "Logan Watkins" his way up the ladder and needs a strong start to 2016. If he keeps developing, easy to see Caratini slotting in as the 3rd catcher in AAA for 2017.

The rest, as of now, are bunch of pen arm, end of the rotation types, with no other positional asset that really jumps off the paper right now. Of course, pen arms/end of the rotation types are often the guys taken, but you can live with losing those.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:32 am

toonsterwu wrote:Don't want to make it seem like I'm gushing over the players on that list. Of course things will sort itself out. Just don't recall a year, since the new rules were put in place and AzPhil was publishing his lists to save time from thinking, where it seemed like we started off with so many semi-intriguing guys (even my own usage of semi- indicate that I'm not absolutely in love with all of them). Really, the only big, on-paper names are Almora and Underwood, and if they simply don't take a step back, they will likely get protected, if they aren't traded. I've been big on Caratini. Called it a steal when we got him, and I think I said awhile ago that that I'm not sure the gap from Contreras to Caratini is all that great. Still has to work on defensive improvements, and offensively, strong finish, but he can't "Logan Watkins" his way up the ladder and needs a strong start to 2016. If he keeps developing, easy to see Caratini slotting in as the 3rd catcher in AAA for 2017.

The rest, as of now, are bunch of pen arm, end of the rotation types, with no other positional asset that really jumps off the paper right now. Of course, pen arms/end of the rotation types are often the guys taken, but you can live with losing those.


??

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Sat Jan 09, 2016 7:54 am

It's been awhile since I looked at old splits, so off the top of my memory, Watkins got off to terribly slow starts in at least A+ and AA , but always finished with a solid 2nd halves that would generate some chatter amongst Cubs fans when it came to prospect ranking discussions. Short of it is, I simply meant Caratini needs to be more consistent overall.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:04 pm

Watkins fell off because he could only play 2B and stopped hitting after 2012. He was doing alright through AA at 22, but his bat fell off a small cliff once he hit AAA.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:46 am

I'm not talking about Watkins "falling off". I'm simply talking about his offensive performance coming up through the system. For a couple years, he would get off to these terribly slow starts, then take off offensively around mid-season, leading to conversation amongst fans during the winter as to whether or not he turned the corner and was someone of some interest. Then, the next year, he started slow again, only to take off around midseason again.

That said, even at his best, he was a fringe 2nd tier starter type. I do wonder if a healthy Watkins (what was it last year, Achilles) might've found a role as a utility player in the bigs, as he could play all the infield spots (although shortstop would be more of an emergency move) and had enough athleticism as an emergency CF. Add in a dash of speed, and IIRC, positive reports on him in the minor league clubhouses, and there's the mix for a bench player.

It still wouldn't surprise me if he managed to fight his way back into the picture once he got healthy, in all honesty. Going to be a tough roster to crack, but he does enough of the little things (works the count) that, if someone got hurt, I could see him being called upon to fill a depth role. Of course, there's a lot of those types of guys.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:02 am

toonsterwu wrote:I'm not talking about Watkins "falling off". I'm simply talking about his offensive performance coming up through the system. For a couple years, he would get off to these terribly slow starts, then take off offensively around mid-season, leading to conversation amongst fans during the winter as to whether or not he turned the corner and was someone of some interest. Then, the next year, he started slow again, only to take off around midseason again.


How does this tie into Caratini?

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby craig » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:00 am

Caratini is his own prospect, every guy is.

I think a Watkins analogy is that he was a 2nd-level prospect who would struggle at a level; show 2nd-half production; get some post-season interest; then struggle again the following season before a 2nd-half bounce back. The routine was start slow, finish strong enough to regain some interest.

Caratini like Watkins is a 2nd-level guy without many HR's with possibly playable defensive but not much defensive buzz; like Watkins he started slow but finished strong enough to regain some interest after the season.

Different guys. But if Caratini is going to end up better than Watkins, I'd like to see him start off well and sustain production all year.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby craig » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:11 am

McLeod and Madison etc. all value progress; the 2nd half performance is considered to be most relevant. From that view, Almora and Caratini finished strong, as did Underwood. Did Almora and Caratini make some adjustments so that they are better players now, and the improved late-season players are what we should project going forward?

Perhaps. I hope so, in those two cases. Not certain, though. All guys have hot and cold periods. Were they just randomly hot, and would have settled back if given more season, and will settle back when this season unrolls? Or did they really "figure something out" that will last?

Also seems to me that after a winter off, hitting in cold April weather against pitchers whose arms are well rested and strong is natural for reduced production for most hitters. That contributes to "better 2nd-half than 1st" appearance of improvement for most hitters.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:31 am

TomtheBombadil wrote:
toonsterwu wrote:I'm not talking about Watkins "falling off". I'm simply talking about his offensive performance coming up through the system. For a couple years, he would get off to these terribly slow starts, then take off offensively around mid-season, leading to conversation amongst fans during the winter as to whether or not he turned the corner and was someone of some interest. Then, the next year, he started slow again, only to take off around midseason again.


How does this tie into Caratini?


Just that Caratini was offensively inconsistent last year, struggling in the 1st half. Again, noted above, my point was that I simply want to see him be more consistent throughout the year. I'm a huge believer in Caratini's, and still believe that there might be a tad more power in his bat (although he looks like a splits power guy - a bit less power left handed, a bit more power right handed).

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:40 am

craig wrote:McLeod and Madison etc. all value progress; the 2nd half performance is considered to be most relevant. From that view, Almora and Caratini finished strong, as did Underwood. Did Almora and Caratini make some adjustments so that they are better players now, and the improved late-season players are what we should project going forward?

Perhaps. I hope so, in those two cases. Not certain, though. All guys have hot and cold periods. Were they just randomly hot, and would have settled back if given more season, and will settle back when this season unrolls? Or did they really "figure something out" that will last?

Also seems to me that after a winter off, hitting in cold April weather against pitchers whose arms are well rested and strong is natural for reduced production for most hitters. That contributes to "better 2nd-half than 1st" appearance of improvement for most hitters.


That last part is probably true to some extent, although some pitchers stuff gets much sharper once it warms up, so there's a level of balance at play. At the end of the day, for Caratini to be relevant, he probably doesn't HAVE to hit as well as he did in the 2nd half. Improved consistency defensively and being enough of an offense threat probably moves him up the ladder.

Jeimer Candelario sort of falls in that 2nd half surge category as well, albeit, after a move up the ladder. Taking a look at his splits in A+, I forgot how pedestrian he was there - enough to keep some intrigue, but nothing to really excite. Here's hoping he's found something, because if so, he feels like, due to position and offensive potential, a kid who could generate key value on the market as an asset to shop.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby craig » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:00 am

I'm personally rather uncertain on Caratini. Defensively, the arm is solid, I get that. And the receiving seems to scout as if his upside is to become average/OK. So, it would seem he's got the physical tools to be average/OK/decent as a catcher, given time/work/polish.

But I've heard very little about the intangible aspects. Does he project to be an excellent game-caller? To sequence pitches well? To frame well? I neither know how important those are, nor how Caratini profiles currently, nor how he projects. I just don't have any idea. And maybe those aren't very important anyway, in which case it shouldn't be a big factor; but again I don't have much idea. I don't think those aspects have gotten much discussion in the short scouting write-ups we get for a guy who's rated 23rd or whatever, so it's been hard to get a feel.

Two possibly irrelevant notes: He went to JC after being academically ineligible for regular college. Many of the good pitch-caller/sequencer/command-pitchers guys are really pretty smart, sharp, very confident guys. Maybe he is, and he didn't care about school. Maybe he is in ways that are baseball relevant but don't help in academics, I just don't know. A puzzle with Underwood has been reconciling his supposedly excellent stuff with his modest K-rate. One rationalization has been that this is the result of poor sequencing. Maybe yes, maybe no, I don't know. If so, might that reflect at all on primary catcher at Myrtle? I don't know.

Hopefully this summer we'll know a lot more, for good, regarding Caratini. He'll hit all year; he'll add some HR's; reports will comment on his solid and improved defense; we'll get some reports on how well he works with pitchers and how they like throwing to him; or what an intense, focused leader he is, etc.. But for now, I just haven't heard enough about him to have much clue.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby toonsterwu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:17 am

All that's fair, as we aren't privy to the internal notes of the organization. On the surface, he seems to have adjusted to full-time catching rather well (played 3rd in JC a bit, although IIRC, that was because they had other, more polished, catching options), but that doesn't tell that much.

I'm not sure I necessarily buy it as being the reason behind his inconsistency, but didn't someone say that Underwood was told to limit his breaking balls?

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby CubsWin » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:02 pm

On Almora's 2nd half, Bleacher Nation had an article detailing that Almora leg kick right around the time he got hot. It's inconclusive as to whether there's a correlation, but he did make a demonstrable adjustment.

Video included http://www.bleachernation.com/2015/12/18/chicago-cubs-prospects-progress-part-5-albert-almora/

And, check me on this, but I remember reading that the Cubs started re-tooling the approach of both Candelario and Almora when they reached High-A. With Candelario it was to tap into more power primarily. With Almora, it was being more selective and picking pitches he could drive. Both players showed struggles in High-A and both players broke out in their 2nd halves in AA.

Almora's BB% was the best of his career 7.1% on the season and 8.7% since his return from playing for Team USA on July 21st. His SLG% was .448 over that span and .504 in August. His slash from July 21st on was .302/.370/.448. Whether it was just a hot streak, coincidence or real progression, it does reflect achieving the goals of greater selectivity resulting in driving more pitches with authority.

Candelario certainly achieved his goal of hitting for more power last season. His IsoP in High-A for 2014 was .133. The next year while in High-A, it moved up to .145 with a much improved overall line of .270/.318/.415 from his previous stint at the same level. Once, he was promoted to AA, his Iso jumped to .171 with a much improved K/BB ratio as well. And his power carried over to the Fall League where he slugged .610, finishing 2nd in HRs with 5.

Again, this isn't proof of progression, but it is evidence. I will want to see how Candelario starts off at AA next year. Almora will get a bit of a grace period to adjust to a higher level with more, crafty veteran pitchers if he starts at AAA.
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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby David » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:16 am

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v5 ... ora-chc-of

Cubs prospect Albert Almora discusses his 2015 campaign and his experience playing with Team USA
Image

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby TomtheBombadil » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:24 pm

craig wrote:Caratini is his own prospect, every guy is.

I think a Watkins analogy is that he was a 2nd-level prospect who would struggle at a level; show 2nd-half production; get some post-season interest; then struggle again the following season before a 2nd-half bounce back. The routine was start slow, finish strong enough to regain some interest.

Caratini like Watkins is a 2nd-level guy without many HR's with possibly playable defensive but not much defensive buzz; like Watkins he started slow but finished strong enough to regain some interest after the season.

Different guys. But if Caratini is going to end up better than Watkins, I'd like to see him start off well and sustain production all year.


Positional value alone destroys any comparison between the two and leaves it impossible to put them in the same exact tier as a prospect. All else being equal - a 6'1"/6'2" 215 switch hitting C prospect with plate discipline is a significantly more rare and valuable prospect than a small, light hitting 2B prospect every time. I also think it's extremely generous to consider Watkins a 2nd level prospect at his peak - he was/is more akin to those fungible IFs that filled the gap in years between Vina and Carpenter/Wong for the Cardinals.

While I'd like one of those outright and obvious breakout seasons from Caratini, he's still set a terrific pace whether he does or not in 2016. Yes, his pace matches Watkins as far as ARLs, but matching that ARL pace as a former HS drafted C convert is just outright more impressive. Having hit AA at 22, he's put himself in a position where even having to repeat AA for more defensive reps in 2017 wouldn't really hurt his long term unless he completely falls apart offensively.

Some other things, tangible and intangible, that gravitate me towards Caratini as a prospect:

- A young C getting stronger with the bat over the course of the regular season and through the playoffs is a positive indicator for things like his makeup, work ethic, level of conditioning....
- The JC he went to has produced over 125 ML players going back to 1972.
- He's bilingual.
- He and Carlos Correa are long time friends. Correa is extremely well regarded for his makeup, work ethic, and maturity.

I'm actually at least considering him for my system top 10 this year. Sure some of that is fortuitous timing, half the Cubs' top 10 isn't occupied by relative and true elite prospects anymore, but he's hardly the only guy to benefit from that and is really a nice blend of performance, tools, and youth at that position so far.

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Re: 2016 Cubs Farm and Prospect Musings

Postby craig » Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:56 pm

Watkins was simply being used as an example of a struggle-then-finish-stronger guy. That profile also applied to Caratini, who needed a stronger finish to get his OPS up, but still only to a still-meager .714, with a still light-hitting 4 HR, and a still light-hitting .372 slugging.

(Heh heh, this is outside the point that Watkins was a struggle-then-finish-stronger guy. But in comparing age-21-Daytona Watkins to age-21-Caratini,
Caratini had fewer HR's, lower slugging, and was ~40 points lower OPS. Fortunately for him, the offensive bar is low for catchers.)


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