FanPost

Third-Quarter Roster Analysis-- Iowa Cubs (Position Players)

Dear BCBers,

I thought it would be fun to take a Third-Quarter look at some of the minor league rosters.  Basically, this serves as an update to my "All-Star Break" roster analysis.

For the original article, go here:

http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/story/2006/7/12/5443/33523

This is by no means an exhaustive analysis.  I've only seen the I-Cubs play once this year (early in the season versus Round Rock), and am unable to comment anecdotally or statistically about our position players' defensive abilities, our pitchers's mound presence, or anything of that nature.

Furthermore, my evaluation will rely heavily on primary peripheral statistics, rather than on more sabermetrically sophisticated models of evaluation (simply because I'm not overly knowledgeable of their applications).

What I can offer in this analysis is a fair, thoughtful reflection of the cursory information at hand.

And for the Third-Quarter Analysis, I've chosen to focus solely on players who I think are prospects or "fringe" prospects in the organization.

With that in mind:

THE IOWA CUBS POSITION PLAYERS

Buck Coats, RF (24 yrs, 2 months)

First Half:
4 HR, 32 RBI
.268/.327/.349 (.676 OPS)
298 AB, 23 BB/59 K, 10-3 SBs

Coats is a converted infielder who has played all over the diamond at Iowa, but mostly in RF.  He's started games in RF, CF, LF, 3B, and 2B.  He's versatile and athletic, with a good arm and decent speed.  But his bat is pretty light.

Coats appeared to have turned a corner earlier this season when he went on a pretty impressive hitting-streak.  But since then he's cooled off, dropping his BA to .268 and exposing his peripheral numbers as being fairly weak.

His career OPS coming into 2006 was .716 with only 15 HRs in over 2000 ABs, so it's not expected that he turn into a hitting machine.  With his versatility, however, if Coats could muscle up a little and improve his On Base numbers, he might be a useful utility player at the next level.

Third Quarter Update

Coats continues to play all over the field, playing more at SS while Theriot sits on the bench in Chicago.  Thanks to a 12-game hitting streak (and slightly improved plate discipline), he has improved his hitting line, posting this line during the Third Quarter:

2 HR, 15 RBI
94 AB, 7 BB/11 K, 6-0 SBs

His season hitting line now stands at:

6 HR, 47 RBI
.283/.340/.372 (.712 OPS)
392 AB, 30 BB/70 K, 16-3 SBs

If Coats continues to improve his offensive numbers, he could make a good case for himself as a very versatile Major-League utility-player.

Mike Fontenot, 2B (26 yrs, 2 month)

First Half:
6 HR, 20 RBI
.305/.390/.453 (.843 OPS)
256 AB, 35 BB/47 K, 5-3 SBs

Fontenot is a scrappy little guy (5'8", 160 lbs) that came over in the Sosa trade with Baltimore.  And if allowed to play at the Major League level, I think Fontenot would contribute more than the other spare parts we received-- Hairston, and then, indirectly, Nevin (and Fontenot will definitely contribute more than Jerry Crouthers who promptly retired!).

In his minor league career, Fontenot has posted a career OBP of .362, but has been closer to a .370 OBP in his last 1150 ABs in AAA over two and a half seasons.  He also has surprising power for his size, posting roughly a .430 SLG over that same period.

During the last three seasons at AAA, Fontenot has also shown improvement his K rates and his BB rates.

  1. AB: 524 BB/600: 55 K/600: 127
  2. AB: 379 BB/600: 93 K/600: 122
  3. AB: 256 BB/600: 82 K/600: 110
And as a comparison, Fontenot posted an .880 OPS in 2004 at AA (and was named Baltimore's Minor League Player of the Year) while Eric Patterson is currently fluctuating between a .750-.780 OPS at AA West Tennessee.

And while Fontenot is a little old to be considered a first-rate Major League prospect, I feel he might be a very comparable replacement to Todd Walker, and certainly a better hitter than the other platoon of ML Second Basemen we've endured (Neifi, JHJ, Womack, Bynum).

Third-Quarter Update

Fontenot continues to hit and wait for his chance to crack the ML roster.  He heated up considerably in late July, peaking his OPS in the .860 range, but has since been slumping.

His offensive numbers for the season remain solid, however, posting good on-base numbers and surprising power (8 HRs, 28 doubles in 361 ABs).

His current season line is:

8 HR, 36 RBI
.296/.374/.452 (.826 OPS)
361 AB, 46 BB/64 K, 5-4 SBs

The acquisition of Cesar Izturis makes it even more difficult for Fontenot to have much of a future with the Cubs.  Fontenot stands behind a glut of Second Baseman (Cedeno, Perez, Theriot, etc), though it's my opinion that he would out-hit many of the guys ahead of him.  Fontenot also has Eric Patterson coming up behind him so it seems, unfortunately, Fontenot may not have a place to play.

Casey McGehee, 3B (23 yrs, 10 months)

First Half:
5 HR, 32 RBI
.285/.336/.394 (.730 OPS)
302 AB, 23 BB/45 K, 0-1 SBs

McGehee took a step forward in his hitting last year at West Tennessee, posting career highs in almost every catergory and finishing with a .776 OPS at the age of 22.  His batting average has been fairly solid all season at Iowa, but his OBP and SLG have been lower than you'd like at a premium offensive position like 3B.  

McGehee is still young-ish, though he has no history of a very high rate of Isolated Power.  And while he seems like a solid-enough minor league hitter, it is unlikely that McGehee will break into the Bigs unless he finds a power stroke.

Third-Quarter Update

McGehee is not among the top tier Cubs prospects (some would argue that he's not even a prospect), but he's still on the young side and has marginally improved his hitting line since the All-Star break.  He has shown a little more power and a little more patience in his past 100 or so ABs (his overall OBP and SLG have increased slightly despite a slightly lower batting average), which is what he will need to continue to do to break into the bigs.

His season line now reads:

8 HR, 51 RBI
.282/.339/.401 (.740 OPS)
401 AB, 33 BB/61 K, 0-2 SBs

Felix Pie, CF (21 yrs, 6 months)

First Half
7 HR, 39 RBI
.256/.320/.393 (.713 OPS)
336 AB, 29 BB/84 K, 7-9 SBs

Pie is another highly controversial Cubs prospect.  After starting out really hot in Iowa this year, Pie has really flamed out.  He's flashed a lot of raw skill, but is critically hampered by terrible strike-zone judgement statistics.  From the reports I've read, at least Pie is aware of where he needs to improve and at least says he's trying to work on his plate discipline.

The second half of the season seems critical for him.  It is my feeling that Pie needs to improve his K/BB rate significantly if I am to believe he can be a productive Major League hitter.

I've seen him play in person and he was damned impressive-- beautiful in the outfield, ridiculously strong arm, very fast around the bases, serious bat speed, and super star presence.  But the statistics will likely bear out that he needs to control the zone better if he's going to make it.

Pie is still only 21 years old, which is young for AAA.  It is my hope that the organization doesn't expect too much from him too soon and will allow him to continue to develop in AAA without the Wrigley Faithful on his back before he's given a fair shake.

Coming into 2006, Pie had a career .816 OPS in 1402 minor league ABs, which is highly impressive for a hitter who has consistently been one of the youngest players at each level.  If Pie can reach the .800 OPS neighborhood in the second half and improve his K/BB ratio, there is still plenty of optimism to have in his future.

Third-Quarter Update

Pie seems to have turned a bit of a corner in his hitting (and baserunning) since the All-Star break.  Which is exactly what we were all hoping for.  Overall, he's still not putting up super-star numbers, but he's doing very well for a 21-and-a-half year old in his first season of AAA.  Similar to Matt Murton at the ML-level, Pie seems to have made some adjustments and is making significant progress at the plate.

This is what Pie has done since the All-Star Break:

3 HR, 12 RBI
.330/.374/.496 (.870 OPS)
115 AB, 7 BB/ 20 K, 6-1 SBs

Pie's BB rate is still a little troubling to me, but he has improved his K rates significantly since the break.  It is likely that he's making much better, more consistent contact at the plate.

For the season, Pie is putting up this line:

10 HR, 51 RBI
.275/.333/.419 (.752 OPS)
451 ABs, 36 BB/104 K, 13-10 SBs

If Pie can continue to hit in the .870 OPS range for the remainder of the season (while continuing to reduce his Ks) he may be in a position to join and help the ML-club at the start of 2007.

From all accounts, Pie's defense is Major League-ready.  With his progress at the plate, Pie is getting closer to becoming the player we all hope he can become.

Geovany Soto, C (23 yrs, 7 months)
1 HR, 24 RBI
.274/.349/.339 (.688 OPS)
230 AB, 25 BB/48 K, 0-1 SBs

Soto has been Iowa's number one Catcher this season after playing in 91 games for the I-Cubs in 2005.  He's had a cup of coffee in each of the last two years with the big league club and is mostly-well regarded as a decent "throw and catch" backstop.

As a hitter, he's never shown much power (career SLG .367), though his On-Base skills seem decent.  He has a career .342 OBP, drawing 72 BB/600 ABs over his minor league career (1232 ABs).  His .688 OPS at the mid-point of 2006 is well in-line with his career .709 OPS mark and almost identical to what he put up last year at Iowa (.699).  His K/600 ABs are fairly alarming, with a career rate of 132K/600.

Third-Quarter Update

Much like Coats and Pie (and to a lesser extent, McGehee), Geovany Soto has been hitting better since the break.  Showing a lot more power, Soto has hit 3 HRs in his last 60 ABs after only hitting 1 HR in his first 230.  It's too small of a sample size to say if Soto has found a power-stroke, but those numbers are nonetheless mildly encouraging.

He has improved his hitting line for the season to:

4 HR, 33 RBI
.272/.347/.372 (.719 OPS)
290 AB, 31 BB/61 K, 0-1 SBs

Ryan Theriot, SS (26 yrs, 8 months)

First Half:
0 HR, 21 RBI
.308/.370./.381 (.751 OPS)
273 AB, 27 BB/33 K, 14-3 SBs

Theriot is another Cubs farmhand that has sparked lots of discussion at BCB.  After winning the admiration of a number of fans with his gritty, hustling play in Spring Training, he was the last man sent to Iowa (to make room for Freddie F. Bynum) only to be called up later in the season and sit on the bench for his entire tenure on the Major League roster.

Many people have argued back and forth for or against Theriot's inclusion on the ML roster.  It seems clear to me, at the very least, he would likely outplay Womack and Bynum and offer better offense than Neifi, though perhaps not as much defensively.

Theriot has played SS, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF at Iowa this season, so he may be grooming for a utility role in the future.  This is likely something he would excel at and it's too bad he hasn't had the opportunity to begin such a role this season.

At the plate, Theriot has very little power (.331 career SLG), though he has muscled up more in the last three seasons (.342, .391, .381).  Theriot's strength is at getting on base, and over the last three years has posted OPS's of .367, .365, and .370.  He seems capable of working the count, and putting the ball in play (career K/600 of 78K/600).  His career K/BB rate is solid, at 260 BB/263 K in just over 2,000 minor league ABs, demonstrating he has skill in controlling the strike zone.

All of these skills likely translate into (at the very least) a decent, useful Major League bench-player-- which is something the Cubs could really use.

Third-Quarter Update

Theriot has spent most of his time since the All-Star break on the Major League roster and has played well in limited time.

I actually like Theriot more than Ronny Cedeno and hope that Theriot will be given more playing time at the Major League level.  I'd love to see an open competition between Cedeno and Theriot and feel, if anything, Theriot can be a more valuable bench player than current Cubs Cedeno, Perez, and Bynum.

Summary

The best news since the break has been the marked improvement of Felix Pie.  His second-half performance so far is very encouraging.

Buck Coats, Mike Fontenot, Casey McGehee, and Geovany Soto have all either held their own or slightly improved in the second-half of the season.  Coats and Soto most likely have the better chance of contributing at the ML-level than Fontenot and McGehee (Coats because of his versatility and Soto because he can catch).

Fontenot is still a tough call-- he's shown he can hit but he's buried beneath other Second Basemen, he's getting a little old, and he has a "hotter" Second Base prospect on his heels.

McGehee, I feel, is least likely to contribute unless he steps up his offensive output a few notches.

The rest of the current Iowa Cubs's position players (Jeff Deardorff, Micah Hoffpauir, Casey Kopitzke, Luis Montanez, Augie Ojeda, Michael Restovich, Jose Reyes, Tony Womack) are non-prospects to me because of their age, their current performance, and their historical numbers.

Of the group, Michael Restovich (.927 OPS in 342 ABs)  has proven to be a solid hitter and might be a contributer as a spare outfielder, particularly against LHPs.  But at 27 and a half years old, I don't expect him to be an every-day player at the ML level.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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