Sickels On The Pitchers

It’s a week later than last year, but the PDF of the John Sickels prospect hit the inbox early this morning, affirming my decision to paperless since the recent ice storms in the midwest are delaying shipment of the books.

As I’ve done the past two years, I’m breaking this into two posts and starting with the pitchers. For the second straight year, there are more position players listed than pitchers (22 vs. 17), but there are also six more players overall listed (39 vs. 33). Not sure if the former is good, but I’m pleased with the latter because it gives me more material to work with, especially as I finish off the player reports on the 2013 Watchlist.

A reminder: Sickels gives letter grades for the players and is extremely tough. How tough? There are close to 1,000 players in the book. Sickels gave out eight (8) A’s and sixteen (16) A-‘s. Among his Top 50 Batters and Top 50 Pitchers, there are twenty-four B’s.

Also, it’s important to remember that the grade is relative to the level — a C-grade guy in the Appy League could end up a superstar, but a C in the International League is probably going to ride the pine or pitch in blowouts if he ever makes it to The Show.

Let’s dig in. When it comes to pitchers, Sickels has some guiding principles…

…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

Sickels is a Bill James disciple in that he uses statistics to help identify trends and anomalies. But he also believes in the value in scouting to identify the intangibles like effort, body language, kinetics, athleticism, etc.

Here’s a look at the 17 pitchers (2012 grade in parentheses)

Lucas Giolito – B Aaron Barrett – C Ivan Pineyro – C
Christian Garcia – B- Robert Benincasa – C Robbie Ray – C (B-)
Nathan Karns – B- Erik Davis – C Derek Self – C
Sammy Solis – B- (B-) Neil Holland – C Kylin Turnbull – C (C)
Brett Mooneyham – C+ Pat Lehman – C (C)  
Matt Purke – C+ (B-) Christian Meza – C  

Those that are bolded are ranked by Sickels but not Baseball America. All but three (Benincasa, Self, Turnbull) are on the 2013 Watchlist, which I’ll modify by adding them to the “Notables.” Now, for some tidbits…

…Like everyone else outside the Natmosphere, Sickels believes Garcia will work in relief, perhaps even as a closer.

…Giolito’s Grade B is based purely on potential and he was excluded from the Top 50 because of the TJ surgery.

…Scouts aren’t convinced yet that Karns will stick as a starter at the higher levels, pointing to his control issues and an uneven changeup (before you jump to the comments, remember that one of the key differences between High-A and AA is hitters being able to lay off certain pitches).

…Sickels tabbed Lehman as a sleeper a few years back, but still has faith that he might have a shot as a middle reliever in MLB (unfortunately, he said much the same thing about Josh Wilkie).

…Unlike everyone else, Sickels is skeptical that Purke will regain the velocity he showed in 2010 as a freshman at TCU.

…Oddly enough, Sickels still believes in Sammy Solis’s chances coming off TJ surgery, perhaps because he has more of a track record than Purke.

For those wishing more detail, let me remind you that Sickels is a two-person operation (he and his wife Jeri) so you should buy the book (seriously, go for the PDF — you can search and annotate).

Up next: a post on the hitters, and I’ll be updating/finishing the Player Reports as well.

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.

6 thoughts on “Sickels On The Pitchers”

  1. Hard to disagree with a guy that has put so much work into his analysis. But how does Garcia, who has already made some positive contributions to the Nats’ in the Show, share ratings with guys that are in the ‘years away, if ever’ category?

    Think I’ll buy Sickels’ book, in support of his great efforts.

    1. The problem with the letter-grade system is it doesn’t differentiate between starter and reliever, regular and reserve and doesn’t delineate risk. BA has something like that, which I didn’t get into because it’s new and not especially clear. Garcia, for example, is a “45 Low” while Karns is a “50 Medium” and Solis is a “50 High” — 45 meaning he’s either a #5 SP or a MR, Low meaning that he’s in a good position to hit his ceiling. The 50s are #3 SPs or CL/SU types, with the “medium” being the average amount of risk to develop into a MLBer, and “high” meaning greater-than-average risk. Most of the Nats were of the “50 High” or “45 Medium” variety.

      A couple of years ago I stopped buying the “Minor League Analyst” books, which had been written by Deric McKamey until 2010 but when he was hired by St. Louis, the 2011 edition by Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney was so nearly the same book that I felt like I had been ripped off. I bring it up because they had a good system: 6-10 for the ceiling, A to E for the likelihood of reaching that potential (here’s a link to when I last used it). So Garcia would be like an 8B, meaning a solid regular with a 70% chance. But Karns might be an 8C and Solis an 8D.

  2. Seems like he noted Eric Davis as a potential sleeper in his team write-up. Was there any more “color” on that in the book, or did it just seem like a nod to the fact that he got added to the roster?

  3. No, he didn’t tag Davis as a sleeper (that was a position player this year) but he mentioned that he “has always had a good feel for pitching,” which, coupled with the extra 5-7 m.p.h. on his FB bodes well for him.

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