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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ranking the Young Third Basemen: Part II

Alright, I'm back to look at another set of Young 3B that might be on your Waiver Wire. We'll get right to it.

Edwin Encarnacion - I've talked about Edwin a lot over the past month or so. In 2007, so far, Edwin has an 82.8% Contact rate, 8.7% BB rate, and a 20.8% LD rate. In 2006, he had an 80.8% Contact rate, a 9.2% BB rate, and a 21.1% LD rate in 406 ABs. In 2005, he had a 71.6% Contact rate, 8.7% BB rate, and a 25.2% LD rate in 211 ABs. His LD and BB rates might improve just a bit, and his Contact rate should remain steady. These numbers don't translate to a .224 BA, and given an opportunity he should turn things around. A .280 BA seems like a good estimate.

He's only hit 1 HR so far in 2007, but it went a True Distance of 402 feet. In 2006, he hit 8 of his 15 HRs past 400 feet. According to HitTracker, he had a 4.00 No Doubt-to-Just Enough ratio, meaning he was a good bet to improve his HR total. I still see 30 HR power out of Edwin eventually, and if he can play fulltime once Josh Hamilton returns (which might be unlikely) he could be good for 20-25 HRs this year. His FB% is up to 42.7% and his GB% is down to 36.5%.

The Reds lineup is good, but it would be better if it was better managed. If he plays and hits in the middle of the order, Edwin should get plenty of RBIs and Runs, but we're looking at a big IF. I mean, the Reds were batting Adam Dunn 6th behind Jeff Conine and Alex Gonzalez some games and are giving Nick Hopper and Juan Castro far too many ABs.

Mark Reynolds - Hasn't been in the majors long, but has made a major splash in the time he has been. So far, he has a 81.1% Contact rate, a 7.5% BB rate, and a 19.4% LD rate in 37 ABs. He's hit 3 HRs so far, and they've gone True Distances of 371, 405, and a whopping 459 feet.

Here are his Minor League numbers across several levels:
2005 | Low-A | 431 ABs | 77.4% Contact | 7.4% BB | 13.7% LD | 19 HR
2006 | High-A | 273 ABs | 77.6% Contact | 12.7% BB | 17.2% LD | 23 HR
2006 | Double A | 114 ABs | 71.9% Contact | 8.7% BB | 14.5% LD | 8 HR
2007 | Triple A | 134 ABs | 76.1% Contact | 12.9% BB | 20.6% LD | 6 HR

We see that his Major League numbers this year don't seem to be entirely sustainable. His Contact rate should fall to perhaps 75%, but his BB rate might stay level and his LD% might only drop a percentage point. His power is legit, and if he were to be a starter for the rest of the season he could get up to 25 HRs. His .519 BABIP will drop, as will his .459 BA, and it should settle somewhere near .260-.265. The Dan Uggla comparisons people draw seem to be pretty accurate.

The D'Backs lineup is very good, so he will get plenty of RBIs and Runs, especially if he keeps batting 4th and 5th. That they are comfortable hitting him there indicates they would like find him ABs even after Chad Tracy gets back. That may prove, though, with all of the quality hitters in their lineup. He might end up as a 3-4 game per week guy if they keep him in the majors.

Ryan Braun - Braun isn't a guy I was able to buy into the hype of until this year (to a certain extent). A highly touted prospect of the Brewers, Braun's call up was announced on Thursday. Let's first look at his minor league numbers.

2005 | Low-A | 152 ABs | 79.3% Contact | 5.5% BB | 25.6% LD | 8 HRs | 2 SBs
2006 | High-A | 226 ABs | 79% Contact | 8.9% BB | 11.6% LD | 7 HRs | 14 SBs
2006 | Double A | 231 ABs | 78% Contact | 82.% BB | 12.3% LD | 15 HRs | 12 SBs
2007 | Triple A | 109 ABs | 90.8% Contact | 10.7% BB | 22.2% LD | 9 HRs | 4 SBs

We see that up until 2007, Braun's numbers were very mediocre. Where did this spike come from in 2007? Did he change something? Did he just get lucky? And most importantly, how will these numbers translate to the majors? Honestly, it's a tough call. His Contact rate could be anywhere from 75% to 90%. His BB rate could be anywhere from 5% to 8%. His LD rate (yikes) could be anywhere from 12% to 23%. Let's say that he settles at around this level: 80% Contact, 7% BB, and 18% LD. That would mean a BA around .270-.275. He might be able to hit dozen HRs the rest of the way, but he also has a little bit of speed. He could end up with 12-15 SBs, which is where a lot of his value comes from. Not many third baggers can steal 15 bases.

The Brewers lineup is good. Braun batted second last night, a spot that would provide a good numbers of runs and a fair number of RBIs.

Andy LaRoche - The Dodgers' top 3B prospect was called up on May 6 and has been a flop thus far. He's hitting with a 89.2% Contact rate, a 29.2% BB rate, and a 19.4% LD rate. Despite these good numbers, he has just a .233 BABIP and a .206 BA. He has yet to hit a HR. These numbers will certainly improve.

Here are his minor league numbers:
2005 | High-A | 249 ABs | 84.7% Contact | 7.1% BB | 21 HRs | 6 SBs
2005 | Double A | 227 ABs | 76.2% Contact | 12.4% BB | 9 HRs | 2 SBs
2006 | Double A | 230 ABs | 86.1% Contact | 15.1% BB | 9 HRs | 6 SBs
2006 | Triple A | 202 ABs | 84.2% Contact | 11.0% BB | 10 HRs | 3 SBs

In 2007, he had a 85.7% Contact rate, a 10.1% BB rate, and a 12.9% LD rate. He also hit 3 HRs in 98 ABs. I expect LaRoche to definitely pick up the pace shortly. His Contact rate might drop to 84%, and his BB rate will certainly drop, possibly to 9-10%. We don't have much to base his LD rate on (not available for 2005 and 2006 on, but 19% is modest enough where it could remain stable. Those numbers could give LaRoche a .275-.280 BA. He also might be good for 12 HRs and 5 SBs. He's been hitting between 6th and 9th in the Dodgers lineup, so RBIs and Runs won't be as plentiful if he continues to hit towards the back. The Dodgers lineup is deep though, and even batting 7th or 8th should give LaRoche a decent number of RBIs.

And that's it. We'll rank these guys a little bit later based on, as one reader requested, short-term and long-term potential.

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