Sickels On The Pitchers

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

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]

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.

18 thoughts on “Sickels On The Pitchers”

  1. I am somewhat new to all this, but am curious as to why Tome Milone after his strong numbers in the last two years isn’t rated higher as a prospect. Why is someone like Solis rated so much higher?

    1. Milone is considered a soft-tosser (84-87) and turns 24 next week. Solis is 18 months younger and breaks 90, occasionally touching 94 or so. Scouts are always going to favor the younger and harder-throwing guy. Milone is a favorite here and in fairness both Sickels and BA have warmed up to him (after I and others have been banging the drum for him 😉

  2. Certainly not a problem posting these grades. Roughly the same info is in the Top Nationals Preseason Prospects for 2011thread at minorleague.ball. Sickels seems to like sharing the grades and discussing them on his forum. I think part of the strength of his stuff is that he does interact with his users and is responsive to their concerns and interests.

    Kind of waiting to see where I’m swinging budget wise (buying books is always a couple of my bleacher games) and big club vs. minors attendance before I decide whether to go with Sickels or my standard BP first this year.

  3. Sue – thanks for crunching this info. Looking at it from the perspective of how Rizzo’s most recent activity has impacted the Nats’ prospect pool, it appears that of Sickels’ prospects, 9 of the 21 pitchers joined the Nats in 2010. 4 through the draft (Cole, Solis, Ray, Hanks), 2 via trade (Rodriguez, Roark), 1 intl signee (Maya) and 2 via the Rule 5 (Broderick, Ramirez). Seeing that 3 are from HS and so many came to the Nats within the last year gives me hope for the future!! I’ve not seen Sickels’ book previously, but after reading your blogpost, I am going to check into buying it. Thanks again.

  4. It seems like the only way Milone comes up (and Rosenbaum who I guess is a year behind?) is if they move Lannan and Livo (or send Livo to the bullpen).

    1. No way Milone’s coming up this year. He’s a guy who has got to prove it at each level given his stuff. After that, if he can duplicate his success at AAA he will have his opportunity to compete for the slots that Marquis and Livo vacate.

      1. If Milone manages to duplicate in ST 2011 and into the season in Syracuse? I can’t see having two soft tossing left handed pitchers in Lannan and Milone? Can’t be silly here on this blog … its about prospects … and like Tampa Bay and KC knowing when to sell high … and not wait for the value to go low. Lannan’s value took a bit of a tumble last year. It might be propitious to trade him now (a left handed starting pitcher who is still young with 3 years of major league starting experience) when injuries hit those competitive teams … like the White Sox and Cubs … and even the Indians (we know Acta would probably love to have Lannan).

        Buy low, sell high. With Milone and Rosenbaum, both lefties, you can and should do that.

      2. The fans at Nationals Park might see Milone sometime this year, but probably not until after the trade deadline at the earliest. Should he continue to perform well in SYR in 2011, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be given a chance at a rotation job for 2012.

  5. Curious if you or Brian have gotten a chance to look at Kilgore’s stuff on the state of the Nats in the DR. Two names to watch by bonus are Raudy Read a 17 year old catcher we signed for 130K and Randy Novas a 150K purported 5 tool player who is currently a 16 year old outfielder.

  6. great article. Now here is some headline news. All of the ranking and all of the writing that goes on is a great intro duction to the season. But the ultimate literature will be done on the diamond. The pitchers will show themselves as prospects or not and the proof will be in the pudding

  7. “AA is the ultimate test for finesse pitchers”…. 12-5 2.85 ERA, K/BB ratio 6.74, WHIP 1.165, K/9 ratio 8.8, H/9 ratio 9.2 in 27 games started. I’d say Milone passes the AA test. I don’t care that the throws 86 mph and is only 24 years old. He gets batters out. Is he getting invited to Spring Training?

  8. thank goodness for my 4X4 this past week with the weather!
    lcontinued crossed fingers for Josh Smoker to find his stuff. HS schooler who could blossom later.
    Cintron seems like a guy who can compliment the mix @ SYR for Knorr.
    interesting that Chiefs roster as of today has Valdez (3b).
    am I a psychic or what?? Ankiel and Nix. perhaps I will ease off the Burgess hammering since
    Rizzo is reshaping the depth chart as HIS with Corey Brown and the two vets to buy time @ the top of the chart. My hunch still wants to see how Moldenhauer plays this summer off his 8 HRs @ Vermont last SS.
    three trades made by Nats with Yanx ( Clippard, Gonzo and now the Pole). lets forget that sucker deal where expos traded Westbrook, Lilly and Parker for Irabu-booooo.

  9. Looking at the list, I’m guessing that either Broderick or Rodriguez might have bumped Wort; SP’s rate higher than RP’s, but a triple-digit heater at SYR/WSH trumps a developing RP at POT. I’m ok with that; Having 20+ pitchers that Sickels grades out at a solid C or higher speaks well for the organization.

    High-school arms are usually the most volatile portion of any ranking – with only two (Cole & Ray) in the Nationals top-21, the list is probably stable enough to maintain a mid-level ranking through 2012, imo.

  10. Of the Guzman twins, it’s interesting that BA likes Tatusko better than Roark and Sickels is apparently the other way around. If either one of them makes it, that’s a huge plus deal for the Nationals!

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