Morning Report: Best OPS Doesn’t Always Equal Best Prospect

When judging the prospect status of a player in the lower levels, OPS is one of the main tools you use, but a high OPS doesn’t always mean a player is a legit prospect and the Pirates had three examples of that this year in the GCL and with Bristol and Jamestown.

The leaders in OPS in the lower levels for the Pirates were Henrry Rosario, Danny Arribas and Kevin Krause, not exactly the names that stick out in your mind when you think of top prospects in the Pirates’ system. The OPS stat is still an important one to use, but it’s almost useless when the player has major flaws or is too old for the level.

Danny Arribas hit a career-high four homers this year.
Danny Arribas hit a career-high four homers this year.

Starting with Rosario, who put up an .862 OPS this year for the GCL Pirates and spent most of his time in center field. That was the ninth highest OPS in the league from a player at a key defensive position. On those two facts alone, one would assume that Rosario is a prospect. The problem with that is that he played in the GCL last year too and turned 21 in April. He’s also a very small player, who isn’t the best base runner(speed or SB ability) despite batting lead-off and having the range to play center field. This is the first time he has shown any success on the field, struggling during his first two seasons, split between the DSL and GCL.

Rosario is a case of an older player doing well, while getting a majority of his at-bats against younger pitchers. The GCL Pirates this year had three toolsy outfielders, Michael de la Cruz, Tito Polo and Alexis Bastardo, who all have much more projection than Rosario due to their age and skills they possess. While he had the better stats this year, that trend won’t likely continue as the players move up the ladder. There are such things as sleeper prospects and late bloomers, but due to his size and lack of standout tools, it would be tough to project Rosario to be anything more than a filler in the low levels.

The case for Bristol’s OPS leader is a little different. Danny Arribas has hit well each of the last three years, but he is about to turn 22 years old and he’s moving at a snail’s pace in the minors. Four years into his career, he’s still playing in rookie ball. Arribas has the ability to become a legit prospect if he can keep hitting for high average while playing an important position. He is mainly a catcher, but he’s athletic enough to move elsewhere, or just play multiple positions to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn’t catching.

Arribas needs to be challenged soon. If he goes to Jamestown next year and does well, it doesn’t mean much because he will still be too old for the level. Even a full season at West Virginia next year would put him behind the pace of legit prospects. So while he led Bristol with a .768 OPS, he still has a lot to prove. There is also the matter of 50 strikeouts in 160 at-bats, a very poor rate that easily ranks as the worst of his four-year career. Arribas was challenged in the Australian Baseball League last winter and he struggled in a league that would compare well to the talent you see at AA. Arribas batted .164/.254/.218 in 34 games in the ABL.

The Bristol team has some possible high upside players due to their age in Trae Arbet and Nick Buckner. They also have Pablo Reyes, who is a pure natural hitter and a year younger than Arribas. In fact, catcher Chris Harvey could have more upside, even though he went undrafted. He did well in his brief time, he is a huge kid with power potential and he is also younger than Arribas, plus he has had the potential tag attached to him for some time, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he broke out.

When you get to Jamestown and Kevin Krause, you can pretty much tell just by his draft position that he isn’t considered a better prospect than third round pick Jordan Luplow, fourth rounder Taylor Gushue, or fifth rounder Michael Suchy and that’s because Krause was a ninth round pick. Scouts will tell you that the half season they play after being drafted doesn’t change someone’s prospect status much, unless something drastic happens. So while Connor Joe didn’t play a single game, the fact that his injury(right now) isn’t a long-term concern, means he is still rated right up there with Luplow and Gushue, who were both ranked around the same place as Joe. Krause could very well end up being better than Suchy, because Suchy is considered a raw player with huge upside. If you’ve followed prospects for awhile, you know that players described that way, don’t have a huge success rate.

Getting back to Krause, you have the best prospect of this trio of OPS leaders, but he still has a lot to prove. He hit seven homers, but the fact he is a catcher, meant that his short-season experience is an even smaller sample size, so a home run barrage can really pad that OPS column. In 39 games, Krause had a .923 OPS, which was 42 points higher than the league leader, though he fell well short of the required plate appearances. The Pirates aren’t going to place Krause ahead of Taylor Gushue on the depth charts because years of scouting reports say that Gushue is the better player. There is also the matter of Krause throwing out 16% of base runners, the lowest percentage on the team and Gushue being 13 months younger than him, which gives him the better upside from an already higher starting point.

As you go further down the affiliate chain, these three OPS leaders are further away from being legit prospects. Krause is the closest and his short-season stats are a good sign, but Jamestown really isn’t a challenge for him with his experience, it was more like a continuation of his season. Arribas needs to move faster up the chain to become a prospect you watch closely and Rosario is just an extreme long shot, who should be a serviceable filler until he hits the upper levels, if he gets that far. As I said at the top, OPS is a good judge of talent, but taken out of context, it can also be a misleading indicator for future success.

Pirates Game Graph

The Pirates game against the Cubs was suspended in the seventh inning with the score tied 3-3.


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are five games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and two games behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are five games behind San Francisco for the first spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates will finish up yesterday’s game before they play today’s regularly scheduled contest. Friday’s game was suspended in the seventh inning with the scored tied at three runs apiece. Francisco Liriano has faced the Cubs twice this year, throwing six shutout innings on Opening Day and three innings on June 10th before leaving with an oblique strain that landed him on the disabled list. The minor league season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs. They lost their series Wednesday night. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (71-68) @ Cubs (64-76) 3:00 PM DH
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (3.91 ERA, 140:63 K/BB, 131.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of Henrry Rosario hitting a home run. It was one of three homers he hit this season.

Recent Transactions

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

8/30: Brent Morel promoted to Pittsburgh. Jeff Locke sent to Indianapolis.

8/30: Blake Davis activated from disabled list.

This Date in Pirates History

Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a player that was replaced by a future Hall of Famer, before replacing another future Hall of Famer himself. Tommy Thevenow played six seasons for the Pirates, spending time at shortstop, second base and third base. He started at shortstop before being replaced by a rookie named Arky Vaughan, moving Thevenow over to second base. A couple years later, Thevenow replaced aging Pie Traynor at third base. During his Pirates career, Thevenow hit .251 over 499 games. He hit two homers during his 15-year career and both of those homers came within five days of each other and both were inside-the-park homers. You can read the bio for Thevenow and the other eight players here.

Also included in that link is a recap from the 1960 season, when the Pirates lost their MVP due to a hit-by-pitch, but still managed to pull off a win and remain in first place the rest of the season.

  • I like your articles John

    A few comments
    1) The Bristol Pirates didn’t have any position prospects. That’s not a problem with OPS.
    2) Many players on the GCL Pirates split reps. Bastardo and Polo split time in RF and both had OPS’s in the same range as Rosario. Those two are among the better prospects on the team. IMO Tucker and Keller will be rated highest by BA. Kennelly will move up the lists but might need a new position (3B or C?).
    3) Kevin Krause is a legit hitter. Perhaps he’ll stay at catcher but he’ll likely move to another spot (1B, corner OF). I don’t think there is much difference between him and the other top college picks. This spring at Stony Brook he hit 8 hr’s in about 200 ab’s. His teammates hit 6 hr’s in over 1500 ab’s. His opponents hit 9 hr’s in more than 1700 ab’s. The college hitters will start to separate themselves in WV and Bradenton next year.

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