Thursday, October 6, 2011

Top 1B Prospect: Not Chris Marrero

On August 27, Chris Marrero made his major league debut. Marrero's debut got a lot of people excited because he was the 15th overall pick in the 2006 draft and the #1 prospect in the organization going into the 2008 season according to Baseball America.

Fans should have saved their excitement. In 117 plate appearances, Marrero whiffed 27 times and drew just 4 walks. He had 27 hits, but just 5 of them went for extra bases--all doubles.

Marrero's .248 / .274 / .294 line was good for a 53 wRC+--meaning that adjusting for park effects and run environment, Marrero was 53% as good as the average hitter, and that's including pitchers and premium fielders, which Marrero clearly is not.

Now, I don't mean to beat up on a 23-year-old getting his first cup of coffee. It's a small sample size. He's young enough that he still has time to get better.

But because of his pedigree as a heralded high-round pick, fans and media tend to vastly overrate his potential. And for a guy who talks a lot about meritocracy, GM Mike Rizzo gave Marrero a pretty much completely undeserved promotion.

In fact, Marrero might not even be the top first base prospect in the Nationals organization anymore. That's because while Marrero has been doing just barely enough to keep getting promoted, a late-round pick who lots of fans haven't even heard of has been earning every chance he's gotten. That guy is Tyler Moore.

Granted, Moore is about 18 months older than Marrero, and he was a level behind him each of the last two years. But still, Moore clubbed 62 homers in 2010-2011, while Marrero hit just 32. Even accounting for age differences, what Moore did this year in AA is more impressive than what Marrero did with AAA Syracuse. Plus, Moore isn't anyone's idea of a great fielder, but he's got a good arm and he's more agile than Marrero, which isn't saying a lot.

Scouts and stats guys alike doubt that Moore can overcome his lack of plate discipline to continue his success against the highest levels. This year, he struck out 139 times against just 30 walks in 546 plate appearances. If he can't improve his command of the strike zone, he'll have a hard time finding his way into hitters' counts and major league pitching will expose the holes in his swing. And while the homers are sexy, his .314 OBP means he's simply making too many outs.

Then again, a lot of people thought he'd get exposed in AA, and he handled that just fine thank you very much.

I don't think either Moore or Marrero is likely to ever be a productive major league starter. The right-right profile is tough to overcome, and the offensive standards are just so absurdly high at first base. If they want a championship caliber first baseman (Adam LaRoche ain't it), they're probably going to have to go after a free agent like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols (why not?) or trade for someone like Kevin Youkilis.

But if these guys continue on their current paths in 2012, the next guy I'd like to see get a look in Nationals Park would be Tyler Moore, not Chris Marrero.


Will said...

I agree that Marrero probably isn't the answer to anything. In the few times I saw him, there were one or two times he really got good contact and crushed the ball. To most players, those hits would have been easy HRs, but for Marrero they were merely singles and doubles. He didn't seem to have the necessary strength to flourish in the big leagues (.048 ISO). However, if he does manage to add some muscle, and he has time to do so (he is only barely 23), then a split of .248/.274/.494 would really make a difference. He's marginally improved in every season, lowering his K%, improving his BB%, though his power has dropped a bit. I doubt he'll be a superstar, but it's not fair to write Marrero off just because he didn't succeed in his first 100 ABs.

And regarding Tyler Moore, I put no value into him whatsoever. Essentially, Chris Marrero could flounder in AAA for 3 more full seasons, and he'd be at exactly the same point as Tyler Moore is now. I'd be willing to bet that Marrero's hypothetical 2014 season in Syracuse will be better than Moore's 2012.

Will said...

Also, had Marrero gotten 2 more walks, his BB% in the majors would have been identical to Moore's BB% in AA.

Given Ramos' emergence, Derek Norris is the next guy I'd like to see get a look at Nats Park (and he could catch on Ramos' off days).

Todd Boss said...

Marrero's numbers took a severe nose dive just by virtue of the last 5 games of the season. Beware of over-analysis of small sample sizes.

With september callups you really have to trust your eyes more than the stats. My eyes tell me Marrero looks like a decent hitter, but with no power, and he may be a 4-A guy unfortunately. But if LaRoche goes down again, Marrero may get a decent shot to prove himself longer term.

I like Moore a lot, wonder why he's not getting the publicity in our system after two 30homer seasons. We'll see what the team really thinks when it comes time to protect guys from rule5.

Harper said...

So if they moved Rendon to first he'd immediately be the #1 prospect. I know they won't (no reason to until they see what happens with Zimm) but for those that seem to think Rendon is major league ready now that seems like a better idea than moving a kid with a gimpy ankle to a more demanding IF position.

Steven said...

@Todd--I'm looking at Marrero's entire professional career, not just his final days. Fans of Marrero need to beware cherry-picking ONLY his first few games in MLB, when he piled up a bunch of singles. (Hooray for singles! It's Cristian Guzman a first baseman!)

@Will--Marrero has never ever shown the kind of power that Moore has. That's the difference. If Marrero hits 60 dingers in the next 2 years, then he'll be where Moore is now. I'm betting the under big time.

Steven said...

@Harper--Rendon starts in H-burg or maybe Syracuse, and if he mashes for 2 months, and Zimm is still healthy, then you get to decide what to do aobut Rendon's position. It's a ways off yet.

Will said...

As you've already ackowledged, Marrero is 3 seasons ahead of Moore. That's a huge difference.

Marrero's wOBA in AAA:.368
Moore's wOBA in AA: .367

Steven, you're smarter than to be blinded by big HR tallies. Couple that with the aforementioned age caveats, and the fact that no respected authorities of the minor leagues value Moore, and this debate isn't much of a debate at all.

Moore is nothing more than Wily Mo Pena. Marrero is a better all around hitter, and has the potential to be a decent major leaguer (though he is not currently there, or may never be).

Steven said...

@will--Marrero is 18 months younger than Moore, not 3 seasons younger.

You're wrong that "no respected authorities of the minor leagues value Moore." Moore has been rated as a prospect by Sickels, BA, Goldstein and others for each of the last couple years, and his ratings have been rising while Marreros have been falling like a rock.

Ultimately, they're pretty close, mostly because Marrero is not much of a prospect anymore. Neither is going to be a productive starter in MLB I don't think.

Mick said...

Morse long(ish) term?

Will said...

IIRC, the age of the player on opening day is considered their "age xx" season. Marrero was playing in AAA at age 22. Moore will be doing it at age 25, hence 3 seasons behind.

I also didn't notice Goldstein ranked Moore higher than Marrero, so I'll concede that point, but he's a fringe prospect at best just about everywhere else (BA and Fangraphs didn't rank him, Sickels has him at #18), granted that could rise after this season. Though I can’t imagine it will give him much of a leg up on Marrero, since Chris Marrero had an equally good season (.368 wOBA vs .367 wOBA; .825 OPS vs .846 OPS), despite being 18 months, 3 days, 4 hours and 19 minutes younger and playing an entire level higher.

But you're ready to give up on Marrero because of 117 poor major league ABs, in favor of a guy who strikes out a quarter of the time, and walks only once every 20 plate appearances, for one reason- he hits lots of home runs. Isn’t that the exact same justification Jim Bowden had for acquiring Wily Mo Pena and playing him ahead of an all around better player in Ryan Church??

Steven said...

Ryan Church is a completely wrong comp for Chris Marrero. Not even close to the same player.

Anyway, for a firstbaseman, I'll take the guy who can at least hit the ball out of the park once in a while, even with the added Ks. You take the guy who makes a little more contact but only hits singles.

Will said...

I wasn't comparing Marrero to Ryan Church, I was just saying that Bowden opted for Pena (all or nothing type player) over a better baseball player (Church). Just as you're advocating for Moore (all or nothing type player) over Marrero, a better batter (I have no idea whose poor defense is less bad).

To classify Marrero as a singles hitter is completely wrong too. He has a minor league career .172 ISO, which is equivalent to other 1B Billy Butler or Gaby Sanchez (or .153 ISO the previous 2 seasons, which is equivalent to Kevin Kouzmanoff or Howie Kendrick).

Alas, I've already spilled too many words on two players who will be nothing more than insignificant backups. But I stand by my claim that Marrero will be slightly less insignificant!

Sue Dinem said...

Sadly, I have to both agree and disagree.

I agree that Chris Marrero is probably not the 1B of the future. I disagree that Tyler Moore is better (except on defense, which is like being taller than Peter Dinklage).

Unfortunately, unless or until Derek Norris is converted, Marrero remains the team's most viable 1B prospect.

Steven said...

@psuedo--if you break it down by tools, it goes like this:
Hit (ie. contact ability): Marrero
Power: Moore
Glove: Moore
Arm: Moore
Speed: Moore