Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cosart is apparently a Marlin, Pt III

The AC office stalwarts are very busy at the moment, hence the poor immediate analysis of the Jarred Cosart trade, then my 24-hour-late thoughts on that trade.  The Constable also put some thoughts together, so we have kind of covered the trade, but one thing we haven't done is talk much about the prospects coming in.  Hence this post.

Francis Martes will be dealt with first, only because I know absolutely nothing about him aside from the basics.  He is an 18 year old live-arm from the Dominican Republic.  At the time of the trade, he was in the Gulf Coast League where the Marlins are based in Jupiter, so I imagine that he rolled a couple of hours up the road to Kissimmee, where he will be based if he remains in the GCL.  He is young for that level (a couple of years), and has recorded a WHIP of nearly 1.5, and an ERA of  5.18 in a pitchers park.  This screams lottery ticket, and the Astros may not know what they have with him for three or four years.

Jake Marisnick is a 23 year-old RH hitting CF.  He has been rated somewhere on most preseason top prospects lists: from 2012 to 2014, he rated 67, 64 and 79 on Baseball America's top 100; 58, 70, 65 on's top 100; and 28 (in 2012) and 71 (in 2013) on Baseball Prospectus' top 100.  This year, he has batted .277/.326/.434 at AAA New Orleans, with 10 home runs and 64 strikeouts versus 17 walks.

The brief narrative that came with him was that he was a speed-power guy who may not make enough contact to stick.  His glove and arm apparently play well in CF, and he has great speed in the outfield and on the base paths.  He has had parts of two seasons in the majors (2012 and 2013), and put up a largely unremarkable (in fact, terrible) batting line whilst losing his prospect status: .175/.222/.219 including his first game in Houston, where he did not get on base.

When I first heard that profile, my first reaction was "golly, heard that before", and I immediately thought of Dexter Fowler.  And sure enough, Fowler appears as #7 on Marisnick's list of PECOTA comparisons.  But looking at Fowler's minor-league stats, the point needs to be made that Fowler spent two more years in the minors than Marisnick (and I am assuming that Marisnick's minor league career is all-but-done).  That said, Fowler raked at AAA Colorado Springs - a waaay different hitting environment to New Orleans so I will choose to discount Fowlers AAA stats because they were collected when he was older than Marisnick is now, and were collected at altitude in a hitter's paradise.

Marisnicks best line in the minors is a .294/.358/.502 effort at AA Jacksonville (Southern League) in 2013 (as a 22 year old).  Fowler's best non-AAA line was .335/.431/.515 at Tulsa in the Texas League in 2008, also as a 22 year old.  (Fowler also played three games at AA in 2009 and had a better triple-slash, but we ain't counting three games).  If you squint hard, and account for the offence-friendly Texas League, you can nearly see Marisnick a notch or two below Fowler, with the big difference being in OBP.

Fowler certainly seemed like the better prospect looking at their respective minor-league careers, and his rankings on various top-100's seem to confirm that.  On Baseball America from 2007 to 2009, Fowler went 48, 74 15 and on Baseball Prospectus from 2007 to 2009, he went 39, 92, 12.  But rankings really mean nothing - Jose Altuve, after all, never had any top 100 rankings - so read into them what you want, but the point needs to be made that Marisnick has had an inferior career to this point than Fowler.

Also on Marisnicks' top PECOTA comparables, are some good players (Austin Jackson, Chris Young, Peter Bourjos) and some not-so-good players (Aaron Cunningham, Felix Pie, Trayvon Robinson).  The three listed not-so-good names are Marisnick's top three on PECOTA.  Marisnick's top comparable is Aaron Cunningham who is current hitting .249/.333/.345 at Reno as a 28 year old.  Trayvon Robinson is at Albuquerque hitting .239/.299/.356.  Which I guess is another way of saying that the lustre has fallen off Marisnick with his slow start in the Majors, but he will certainly get a chance to hit, and it is way too early to write him off 170-something plate appearances.

But you get the impression.  Marisnick is one of a collection of speedy outfielders with not a lot of hit-tool, and many of them with enough power to knock it out, who will steal a few bases, and will carry a good glove to a hopefully long career.  Ironically, if Marisnick does well for the remainder of 2014, this may allow the Astros to trade his #7 comparable in the offseason.

Speaking of lustre coming off prospect sheen, Colin Moran was arguably the big piece coming across in this trade.  He went #6 in the 2013 draft, and the Astros apparently heavily scouted him at the time - giving some consideration to taking him at 1-1.  So they know what they were getting with Moran, and they should be familiar with plenty of his characteristics and traits.

As an aside, I cannot believe that a team would trade the #6 pick within 14 months of drafting him without there being some potentially serious issue of some description.  Moran has drawn criticism as a low energy, disinterested player in this scouting report that I linked to a few months ago with a sarcastic comment.  Others have pointed out that he seems to have a hit tool, but not much power for a corner infielder, and certainly not a whole heap of pull power.  Others got even more excited about him prior to this season, anticipating a quick run through the minors, whereas others see some room for projection, with perhaps the power coming later.  The opinions seem mixed, and it would be interesting to see what the inside of the Marlins organisation actually thought about Moran.

This year, Moran played in the offence suppressing Florida league, with his home games also at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.  That is known to be a park that his hard on LHB's, especially in the power department, so his .294/.342/.393 line could look better with some upward league adjustments.  Moran was also more than a year younger than the average Florida League participant, but he is in the Texas League now, and it will be really interesting to see how his numbers hold up.

So perhaps Moran has a future and a pretty bright one... and this is where PECOTA comes in and potentially rains on our parade.  Taylor Green is his #1 comparable - he is 27 years of age, and is currently batting .167/.231/.167 at AA.  Kyle Bellows (#2) is 25 and already in independent ball, after washing out of the Indians system with a .221/.250/.301 line at AA Akron.  Jake Smolinski and Jefry Marte are #3 and #4, and both of them are pretty decent prospects, the former with the Texas Rangers.  Tony Cruz (now with the Cardinals in the Majors) and Mat Gamel (out of baseball) are #5 and #6 respectively.  The guys that we want Moran compared to are still in the minors, and none of the others have had much of a Major League career.

So Moran is absolutely no sure thing, and I think it is telling that the Marlins were happy to trade him in some ways.  It probably is a little too early to put Matt Dominguez on notice at this stage.  And Rio Ruiz doesn't need to be worried quite yet.

What is really reinforces to me is that it will be 2017 before we really start to see the shape of this trade.  Both Marisnick and Moran have warts, but both could also turn into solid talents at the major league level, with some chance of them becoming impact players.  The potential is what makes this trade interesting for both parties.