Saturday, July 25, 2009

Projecting Gaby Sanchez

Well, he's finally up. And he gets to ride the bench.

Regardless, I figured he would be best to post up now so fans can know around what to expect from it.

Coming up through the minors, he's been known as a line drive contact hitter with good patience but questionable pop. No surprise to anyone, this shows up in the numbers.

While at first glance you might look at the numbers and say "Hey, those are very similar power numbers to Maybin" (.175 ISO, 16 HRs for Maybin), they in fact come to those numbers very differently. The first thing to understand is age relative to league. Maybin, at 22 years old, is still growing. Gaby, 25, is basically in his prime years now. The second thing is their HR/FB rates (Or, % of times a FB goes for a HR). Gaby's HR/FB is 9.6%, whereas Maybin's is 14.3%. This shows that Maybin has a lot more raw power.

The other thing with Gaby is the park factors. Greensboro, the Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins, is a hitters park in a hitters league. Jupiter, the Class A Advance affiliate of the Florida Marlins, is a massive pitchers park in a pitchers league. So, power n
umbers for hitters are normally high in Greensboro but take a massive drop when they go to Jupiter. This happened to Gaby; after posting a .286 ISO and 17% HR/FB in Greensboro, he went down to .154 ISO and 6% HR/FB. Carolina is a rather neutral park, and he posted pretty impressive .200 ISO although just a 9.8% HR/FB. His ISO mostly came from doubles, as he finished the year with 42 doubles and 1 triple (29% of his hits). Unfortunately, this number should lower as he reaches the majors due to better offense. Normally for a prospect, you hope that doubles turn into home runs as their body fills out and they gain more power. But again, with Gaby's age, there is not much room for more power projection. That means the balls will stay in the ball park, and better defensive players will track down more of those balls.

To make a comparison to another former "old for his league, question his power" Marlin is none other than Josh Willingham, who didn't get to AA until 25 and AAA until 26. Willingham has ha
d quite a career, with a MLB ISO of .212 and HR/FB of 14%. However Willingham showed a lot more in the minors then Gaby did. Take a look at Hammer vs Sanchez(Note: the former Class A affiliate with Kane County, but it's park factors are similar to Greensboro, meaning it's a hitters park. The New York-Penn League, where the short season affiliates are, are mostly neutral. Also, HR/FB data only goes back 2005)

As can be seen here, Willingham had a continual power improvement from ages 23-26, posting a .275 ISO in that time spawn. Sanchez, meanwhile, actually took a step back, only posting a .172 ISO. An absolute huge difference.

There's also a worry about Sanchez's LHP and RHP splits. He has crushed LHP (.963 OPS) but hasn't fared that well against RHP (.831 OPS). This is mostly do to a big BABIP (batting average of balls in play) difference. There isn't much of a power difference (.204 ISO and 10.3% HR/FB against LHP, .169 ISO and 9.2% HR/FB), nor BB/K difference (1.10 BB/K against LHP, 0.93 against RHP). Basically about what you'd expect for most players. However, he has a .356 BABIP against LHP and a .318 BABIP against RHP. This is fueled by a 20% LD rate against LHP while only 17% against RHP. Will it even out, or is it something we need to expect? Just won't be something we know until he's up here and does his thing.

Defensively, he was once considered a horrible defensive first baseman but made huge improvements and won the gold glove award for the southern league. However, I have my doubts of just how much he improved, and although I do expect him to be better than average, I don't expect him to be great. Base running wise, he's not a big lumbering first baseman but he isn't fast either, but he's suppose to be a smart base runner.

So it's projection time.

His WARs aren't exactly eye openers.

What most likely happens is that he displays basically average power, keeping around the same HR rate but losing some doubles to better defenses. It also allows him to still keep a solid BB rate, but overall he's nothing special. The biggest problem being the position he plays, with the average 1B OPS normally hovering in the .800-.850 range. He could still have a career ahead of him, Doug Mientkiewicz took a very similar career line of .271/.360/.405 and had a long career. However, Mientkiewicz was also worth 10+ runs on defense. If Gaby can get to that level, he could duplicate Mientkiewicz's career. The biggest problem with this for Gaby is that he has Logan Morrison breathing down his neck. And while there are rumblings of moving Morrison to LF, it then becomes a question of "Do you want Gaby Sanchez at first base, or Scott Cousins/Bryan Petersen/John Raynor/someone else in the OF? With how cheap 1B/LFs are on the FA market now, is it worth spending that extra 5 mil to get a mid .850 OPS bat?". Unfortunately, he'll probably be a 1B/3B back up, and the fact that he was called up to ride the bench just kind of affirms it. Then again, our front office has gone a bit coo-coo over the last few years, so who knows.

Best case scenario: He's a late bloomer and his HR/FB raises, turning those doubles into homeruns. This is certainly possible, some players took a long time to hit their power peak. It's just rare when this happen. His power though is really the only thing keeping him from being an slightly below average to average player and being a good player, everything else though he already does well.

Worst case scenario: He doesn't develop the HR power, and a lot of those doubles start turning into outs, dropping him to the high-end power of a slap hitter. This is already happening in AAA. Last year a hit went for a 2B/3B 28.7% of the time, this year just 13.6%. Pitchers then pound the zone, dropping his ability to take a walk. If this happens, he's probably not even a major leaguer.

It should also be noted that a lot of things depend on how well Sanchez can field third base. If he can field 3b at a neutral level, that would basically add 1 win to his WAR, turning him into a good player. Big difference between a .770 OPS 1b and a 3b. But this is again a question of how good he is defensively, and a lot of scouts don't think he can handle the position well enough to play everyday.

My assumption is that the Marlins played him so much at 3b in AAA to see if he could handle it. If he could, he'd usurp Emilio Bonifacio (like Fredi has the balls to bench him, right?). If he couldn't, he'd ride the bench. And we're now watching this happen. Hopefully Gaby atleast gets a chance to show what he's got. I don't know if he can handle getting 3 at bats a week. The same thing Brett Carroll had to go through forever (and he still doesn't play nearly enough).

I'd like to thank Nny for putting together all the stats and numbers. Dude knows his shit.

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