Sickels On The Hitters

A look at the Nationals batters profiled in the John Sickels 2011 prospect book

As with the pitchers, Sickels has some principles that I’d like summarize before we look at the list:

…Instead of the Five Tools, Sickels looks at what he calls the Seven Skills:
1. Controlling the strike zone
2. Hitting for power
3. Hitting for average
4. Offensive speed
5. Fielding range
6. Fielding reliability
7. Throwing utility

…Controlling the strike zone isn’t strictly not striking out (Sickels likes a batter to walk about 10% of his PAs) but also comparing BBs to Ks, which means a guy that doesn’t walk a lot is tolerable if he also doesn’t strike out much, and there are plenty of guys that both strike out a lot and walk a lot, but there are very few good hitters that don’t walk much and strike out a lot.

…Sickels likes to look at OPS and a variation of Bill James’ secondary average in relation to his batting average. His formula is basically doubles, plus twice the number of triples, plus three times the number of HRs, plus walks, plus the difference between SBs and CS, all divided by at-bats. The point? That a low-average guy that either hits for serious power or gets on base a lot is just as valuable if not more than a high-average batter with less power. That may sound obvious, but recall how many people have used “offensive woes” to describe a .235 hitter that had a .534 secondary average last season (Derek Norris).

…Offensive speed is how well the player runs the bases, not how fast. The best baserunners are smart and fast, but as many of us have seen, they’re usually one or the other but rarely both.

…Defensively, Sickels freely admits that he has to rely on the scouts heavily because the more advanced defensive metrics (e.g. Zone Rating) simply aren’t available for the minors, noting that range (which ZR measures) is developmentally more important than reliability.

Bryce Harper – A Steve Lombardozzi – C+ (C) Randolph Oduber – C
Derek Norris – B+ (B+) Chris Marrero – C+ (B-) David Freitas – C
Danny Espinosa – B (B) Rick Hague – C+ Jeff Kobernus – C (C+)
Wilson Ramos – B- (B) Corey Brown – C+ Justin Bloxom – C
Eury Perez – C+ Destin Hood – C (C+) Tyler Moore – C
J.P. Ramirez – C+ (C)

As before, the bolded guys are the ones that didn’t appear on the BA list and all of them are on our watchlist. Unlike the pitchers, there’s not so much pride in picking these guys out of the crowd because they were either an All-Star or an MVP in their leagues. Like Rob Wort, Vermont IFs Jason Martinson and Blake Kelso were left on the cutting-room floor as Grade-C guys.

And that completes my review of the prospect books, bringing us pretty damn near the start of spring training. Unfortunately, there are no plans for a “This Afternoon In Viera” or anything like that. As the snark in the tags suggests, there won’t be a Bryce Harper love-fest, just as there wasn’t a Stephen Strasburg slobbering last spring. Instead, I’ll be working on the periphery, focusing on the minor-league angles that I see [insert comparison to dating in high school here] from the (paid) beat guys as they cover the goings-on in Florida.

So the flow of posts is probably going to slow while the attention turns to the big club, but I hope folks will keep checking back here over occasionally over the next few weeks. I always post a link on Twitter when I publish, and for those that prefer the vinyl to the MP3 in terms of Internet communication technology, WordPress creates an RSS feed, too.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

25 thoughts on “Sickels On The Hitters”

  1. It appears Sickles has a better opinion of Espinosa than most, and that’s absolutely wonderful to see. In his interview, he even admitted he has a long stroke and needs to cut down on the strikeouts. It’s not often you see a 23-year-old with that much understanding. Plus, he said he’s willing to hit wherever Riggles puts him.
    /Fanboy rant over

  2. Have you heard anything about Bill Rhinehart? I notice he is at Potomac on the Big Board. Since he had been at Harrisburg and Syracuse, I thought he might go back up this year. I was at the Hot Stove Banquet and Matt LaCroy said a lot of new faces were going to be at Potomac this year. Other than the 3 outfielders from Hagerstown, who else should we expect to see.

    1. Rhinehart, if he does not retire or get cut, is likely to be in Harrisburg in ’11. I would imagine Justin Bloxom, Sandy Leon, Paul Demny, Josh Smoker, Steven Souza, Stephen King, Sammy Solis, and Mitchell Clegg are near certain to get the bump. After that it gets fuzzy.

      I’ve been told that Potomac is the last roster to be set, and it’s not unusual for a guy that finished at Potomac to start at Hagerstown to make room. This happened to Clint Everts a couple of seasons ago, and it could happen to Chris Curran this offseason (i.e. they’d rather he play everyday than sit the bench). I’d expect Evan Bronson, Pat Lehman, Rob Wort, and Francisco Soriano to return.

      1. Sanchez or Hague should get to start at Potomac, right? Seems like either wouldn’t be too hurt and you’d imagine that they need to make room for Kobernus somewheres. Ah, Kobernus. He’ll be a real interesting to watch to see if he can come back from the dead. Be interested to see how McGeary’s handling his TJ recovery. I haven’t given up on him yet based on progress he was making before his injury.

        1. In disappointing lefty McGreary’s case perhaps there is a silver-lining. He’ll learn to appreciate just how lucky he is to be doing what he’s doing … and … he is after all still pretty young.

        2. Here’s an initial stab I took at the Potomac OD roster, FWIW…

          CA: Leon (B/R), possibly Solano (R/R); Maybe either Rooney (B/R) or Peacock (R/R) on a re-sign.
          1B: Bloxom (B/R) & Newsome (L/L).
          2B: Soriano (B/R), & Lyons (R/R).
          3B: King (R/R).
          SS: Nicol (R/R), & Lozada (B/R).
          LF: Ramirez (L/L).
          CF: Perez (R/R) & Curran (L/R).
          RF: Hood (R/R); Harper (L/R) in May-June.
          SP: Rosenbaum (L), Bronson (L), Holder (R), Lehman (R), & Frias (R); Solis (L) in May-June.
          RP: McCoy (L), Dill (L), Van Allen (L), Olbrychowski (R), Martinez (R), Testa (L), Wort (R); Fabian (R) on DL, Philabaum (R) released.

          So much at POT hinges on players getting re-assigned out of Spring Training to SYR & the ‘ripple effect’ of that on the lower leagues.

        3. sould: Just my 2-cents worth, but as of now I’ve got Kobernus on a ‘re-start’ in Hagerstown, and both Hague & Sanchez as possibles for SS in Hagerstown. A caveat: I tend to be conservative in roster assignments, keeping the majority of prior year players, so I’ll probably whiff on a number of them. I certainly can’t know what the Washington braintrust will do with the 250+ players currently in the system; All I can do is take a ‘best-guess’ at rosters, based on things like prior year performance \ age \ percieved system depth.

          Spring Training is going to decide a lot more than most casual viewers realize this year. As Sue_D hints at with Rhinehart, some guys entering their 3rd to 5th year in the minors may decide to ‘hang it up’ and get real jobs, or be forced to look to another Org. to continue playing for a living. Every one of these moves ‘shuffles the deck’ for the minors.

      1. Your links to the first 3 parts have a tiny goof, its 2011/01 instead of 2011/02.

        You can go to Part 4 then look at January posts to find parts 1-3

        The big news he says is: in instructionals, he finally got his changeup working to give him a 4th pitch.

        1. See Toast, we all make mistakes!

          VH – Thanks for the catch. Yes, that’s particularly good news because in his last 2-3 starts he was struggling with the change. It’s a testament to his skills that he was able to work without it but if it’s back and consistent, he’ll be a force to reckon with.

    1. I’d say it’s unlikely because I follow a few of the players on Twitter and they’ve said nothing related to that. But I’ll see what I can find out.

  3. Spring Training is going to decide a lot more than most casual viewers realize this year.

    This encapsulates the futility of any attempt by us to project the POT roster. It all starts with Syracuse. There will be as much competition for a spot in the starting rotation on the SYR roster as in the majors. Huge competition that trickles all the down to Potomac. Is anyone even sure what the rotation will be in Syracuse? In Harrisburg?

    As BinM said there might just be some pitchers (not just position players) who might find themselves displaced, pushed into the bullpen, down a level or two, or out at the AAA level.

    Its going to be an interesting spring that’s for sure.

    1. I think we can probably predict where the top prospects drafted in 2009 or earlier will go, but beyond that is a crapshoot. A good part of that is that we don’t have any idea about the minor-league camp because it’s not covered (maybe one year I can change that).

  4. How hard would it be to recruit a High-A/AA player to do a blog/ diary of sorts during Spring Training for this site? Not sure if they could be paid? but I am sure all of us could collect a few hundred to give the player. Just a thought.

    1. I’ve been told that the organization isn’t too keen on player blogs. Let’s just say I had a similar thought.

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