FanPost

Scouting the current Braves

John Coppolella thought the Braves were going to be a better team than last year. To hear him talk, he might have hoped they’d be a .500 team this year. Many journalists have found this laughable and most seem to think the Braves aren't interesting this year. The minor league teams might be though. I wanted to know what sort of team we might expect in a few years if the Braves prospects end up making it through the minors as thought. The common scouting system has prospects on the 20-80 scale, usually measuring future talent level. Nicely, Fangraphs has useful tables to let you know what a player with a particular tool grade should be, based on talent level.

Scouting Grades in Context: Hitters

Grade

Tool Is Called

Batting Average

HR

ISO

Baserunning Runs

Fielding Runs

80

80

0.320

40

0.300

12

30

75

0.310

35-40

0.275

10

25

70

Plus Plus

0.300

30-35

0.250

8

20

65

0.290

27-30

0.225

6

15

60

Plus

0.280

23-27

0.200

4

10

55

Above Average

0.270

19-22

0.175

2

5

50

Average

0.260

15-18

0.150

0

0

45

Below Average

0.250

12-15

0.125

-2

-5

40

0.240

8-12

0.100

-4

-10

35

0.230

5-8

0.075

-6

-15

30

0.220

3-5

0.050

-8

-20

As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:

Scouting Grades in Context: Overall

Grade

Hitter

Starting Pitcher

Relief Pitcher

WAR

80

Top 1-2

#1 Starter

—-

7

75

Top 2-3

#1

—-

6

70

Top 5

#1/2

—-

5

65

All-Star

#2/3

—-

4

60

Plus

#3

High Closer

3

55

Above Avg

#3/4

Mid Closer

2.5

50

Avg Regular

#4

Low CL/High SU

2

45

Platoon/Util

#5

Low Setup

1.5

40

Bench

Swing/Spot SP

Middle RP

1

35

Emergency Call-Up

Emergency Call-Up

Emergency Call-Up

0

30

*Organizational

*Organizational

*Organizational

-1

If a player hits 19-20 home runs in a season, this would mean that his scouting grade talent level was a 55 for power, above average. Interestingly, this is the number of home runs projected for Freddie Freeman this year, meaning that his power grade is a 55. This is where I got distracted by asking myself a question. I wonder what tool grades the current Braves MLB roster has? There are even estimates as to what overall quality of player each grade accounts to. For example a 55 player is an above average hitter, a #3/4 starting pitcher or a mid-closer (for a relief pitcher). Let’s scout the Atlanta Braves.

Methods

I’ve used the projection systems ZiPS and Steamer and being a Braves fan have taken the more optimistic option for any given player. Then I pro-rated the WAR projections for each player for a whole season (with some rounding) - roughly 650PA, 180 innings (starters) or 50 innings (relief). The prospect evaluation scales look to measure talent level. To see the talent, I thought it best to see what WAR Pierzynski would get if he played almost every game, even if it is not actually going to happen. I wanted to see how their talent ranked, which means finding WAR for a season.

Next I used the season-WAR projections to find a "prospect" future value (FV) grade and then find the corresponding description of a player with that talent level. I also matched the projected hitting/running/ defensive stats to give the hitters on the roster "prospect" grades for "Hit", "Power", "Run" and "Field) (I couldn’t think of a good way to do "Arm" or individual pitch grades). These are just for interest, but do give something to compare the actual prospects to. Swanson is down to hit .280, 12-15 HRs, with 4 baseruns and 15 fieldruns. That’s Freeman’s hitting with Pierzynski’s power, Stubbs’s running and Flowers’ defense. Fun this! It’ll probably have to be another article though, as I said above, I got distracted. Anyway, the scouting grade results are below:

Player

pWAR (season)

FV

Hit

Power

Run

Field

Player description

Flowers

2.0

50

35

50

45

65

Av. regular

Pierzynski

1.0

40

50

45

40

60

Bench

Aybar

0.9

40

50

35

50

50

Bench

Castro

0.0

45

45

30

50

55

Emergency

Freeman

3.2

60

60

55

50

45

Plus

Garcia

0.6

40

55

45

45

45

Bench

K. Johnson

0.2

35

35

50

50

45

Emergency

Peterson

0.2

35

40

35

50

50

Emergency

Francoeur

-1.0

30

40

50

45

45

Organisational

Markakis

0.9

40

60

40

50

40

Bench

Smith

1.2

45

45

30

60

55

Bench

Stubbs

0.2

35

25

50

60

50

Emergency

Blair

1.6

45

#5 starter

Cervenka

0.1

35

Emergency

Chacin

2.0

50

#4 starter

Gant

0.5

40

Middle relief

Grilli

0.4

35

Emergency

J. Johnson

0.2

35

Emergency

Norris

1.2

40

Swing/spot starter

O’Flaherty

0.0

35

Emergency

Ogando

0.1

35

Emergency

Teheran

1.6

45

#5 starter

Vizcaino

0.6

40

Middle relief

Wisler

1.5

45

#5 starter

Withrow

0.0

35

Emergency

I only included players on the roster at time of writing (1st May 2016). I know the Braves probably get better when Inciarte gets back (he’s down as 1.9 WAR adding an average regular) and Albies/Sims/Swanson get promoted, but I was just looking at how the team is right now. If you're wondering, Olivera's projection is bad, maybe a bench player over a season, but it's not certain he'll ever be back on the team.

Lastly it’s all just an estimate; you don’t need to tell me the Braves are actually better than this because Markakis has started well etc. Lots of people don’t like the projections and that’s fine, but regression to the mean is real and that’s what these systems do. This whole thing is just a guess, not my opinion, but using data from elsewhere (Fangraphs), so please don’t shout at me for it. Individual players might perform differently to their projections, but over the whole roster the differences (generally) get evened out.

Summary

Starting pitchers

Relief Pitchers

Hitters

#4 starters - 1

Middle relief – 2

Plus - 1

#5 starters - 3

Emergency call-up - 6

Average regular – 1

Swing/spot - 1

Bench – 5

Emergency call-up – 4

Organisational - 1


This is why the braves are bad (and in particular why the Fangraphs/projection community think we are). There is an obvious dearth of top level players. There are 11 players on the 25 man roster classed as "Emergency call-up" or worse! There are bench players, but these players are actually our everyday line-up. The Braves team WAR is currently at 1.1. That would mean that these projections are actually over estimating the Braves so far. We might be even worse… The Braves front office has analytics guys who would have used projected performance to help Coppy make decisions on building this roster. It’s not secret information, or something I just discovered. Coppolella knows this stuff. I don’t blame him for talking up the team this year. Part of his job is to sell tickets and these projections have error bars which may mean we could have got a .500 record. It’s just not very likely. Not until some fresh talent arrives. Hurry up Ozzie, Dansby and Lucas, we need you.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.