Shortly after Thanksgiving, John Sickels revealed his Top 20 for the Nationals. A little more than three weeks ago, we learned that three Nationals made his Top 50 batters list. Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the players.
I decided to break this up by batters and pitchers, since Sickels doesn’t rank them like BA. Instead he gives letter grades… and he doesn’t grade on a curve — he is very, very tough. As he himself puts it, a C+ grade is good praise, but he is careful to note that the grade is relative, i.e. a Rookie-ball Grade C prospect could end up a star while a AAA grade C is likely to end up as a backup or long reliever.
When it comes to pitchers, Sickels has some guiding principals…
…AA is the ultimate test for finesse pitchers
…K/BB ratio is a strong bellwether
…K/IP ratio can indicate “stuff” but not necessarily velocity
…H/IP ratio is a good complement to K/IP, but should be taken with a grain of salt given the variances in defense [and scorekeeping]
…HR rate — all things being equal, young pitchers that don’t give a lot of HRs are better than those that do
As you might have guessed, Sickels is a Bill James disciple in that he uses statistics to help identify trends and anomalies (see below with Brad Peacock). But he most certainly believes in the value in scouting to identify the intangibles like effort, body language, kinetics, athleticism, etc.
Here’s a look at the 21 pitchers that Sickels graded (2010 grade in parentheses)…
|A.J. Cole – B||Tyler Hanks – C||Tanner Roark – C|
|Sammy Solis – B||Taylor Jordan – C||Brian Broderick – C|
|Robby Ray – B-||Josh Smoker – C (C)||Atahualpa Severino – C (C)|
|Brad Peacock – C+ (C)||Paul Demny – C (C)||Josh Wilkie – C (C)|
|Henry Rodriguez – C+ (B-)||Elvin Ramirez – C||Adam Carr – C (B- in ’08)|
|Brad Meyers – C+ (C+)||Danny Rosenbaum – C||Adrian Alaniz – C (C)|
|Cole Kimball – C+||Tom Milone – C (C)||Yunesky Maya – C|
So why are some of those guys bolded? Glad you asked. These are the guys that weren’t listed in the BA book, and I take a great deal of pride that nearly all of them made our watchlist.
A couple of other notes…
…Rob Wort was one of three Nationals to make the manuscript but not the book — which Sickels calls his “cutting room floor” — and would have been listed as a Grade-C prospect.
…Brad Peacock and Danny Rosenbaum were both given Sickels’ “Sleeper Alert” tag. Peacock got the nod because there is a disconnect between his stuff and his results; he’s never had an ERA below 4.00 yet has a career W-L of 19-35 while his FIPs have been consistently lower than his ERAs (e.g. 3.14 vs. 4.44 at Potomac). With Rosenbaum, it’s more of a gut feel based on his strong GO/AO ratio (1.90) and perhaps, as he alluded back in November, he’s something of a Milone clone (hey, that rhymes).
I’d give more detail (as I did last year, but that was *after* the printed run had sold out), but knowing that Sickels is basically a two-person operation (he and his wife Jeri), I’d strongly recommend folks purchase the book and support what I consider to be the best in the business.
[For those wondering, the pic is a nod to the "hanging fruit" metaphor in the comments. That's what's known as an orchard ladder, used for picking the fruit from the highest branches]