To celebrate the World Series, the return of polls to Fanposts, and getting a Certified Auto of Jorge Soler in a card pack today, I want to change the language a bit around here. You can heed it, or disregard it. That's fine. That said, once I post this, if I've explained it well enough, a new term will be added to the BCB repertoire. That term is the 5% Rule.
There isn't anything magical about 5%, per se, but anything under a 5% chance of happening is a relative long-shot. Anything over 5% has a possibility that should at least be considered. I guess I could be argued up or down a bit, but I like 5% as a legitimacy threshold. And what does it have to do with the 40 Man? Quite a bit, from a rebuild perspective.
Actually, I've run with the 5% Rule here before, a bit hesitantly. Yesterday, I ran it by someone off-board who I respect greatly in the baseball realm. He didn't laugh it off. He kind of liked the idea. Here it is. A prospect becomes legitimate if he has a 5% chance of being a 5.0 WAR Player for his career. That's it, that's all.
If a player has a 5 WAR career, that is legitimate. Not stellar, not earth-shattering, but legitimate. I began coming up with this premise as I evaluated our prospects a few years ago. People like to talk about 'ceilings' and 'will the player hit said ceiling'. I preferred to wonder, "Will this guy be a legitimate MLB Player?" My test case was Darwin Barney. DB has fans and detractors here, all within each of us. Whether you like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) or some similar evaluation better, Barney has amassed a career WAR of 6.6 in his career. He is a legitimate big league player, warts and all. So, as players rise and fall through the Cubs system, I consider it wholly legitimate to ask, "Will he have a career equal to Barney's so far?"
Look up and down the Pipeline, asking "Will he be a 5.0 WAR Player for his MLB career.
The 5% Rule applies here. As fans who don't see workouts, practices, scrimmages, etc..., we pick up cues and "Like" or "Dislike" guys for some of the silliest reasons. I'm not immune. I do try to keep myself in check, asking, does this guy have a one-in-twenty chance of being a 5.0 WAR player?
Injuries happen. Players hit their own ceilings. Lendy Castillo plays in a Winter League Game with a uniform number over 100 (105, to be exact.). The overriding question for me is, does he have a 5% chance of being a 5 WAR player.
As we approach the deadline for deciding on whether guys should be deleted from the 40 Man, are they 1-in-twenty shots of being good enough to hit 5.0 WAR going forward? Joe Mather (keyed by a -2.0 performance in 2012) is a -2.4 for his career. He can obviously be considered a release. Ian Stewart is a career 3.3 with a completed 0.0 last season. If Team Theo thinks he will hit (and train) well enough to keep his spot, I'm fine with him either way. Tony Campana has two Options left, as per AZ Phil. He runs amazingly well, is a mediocre fielder, and his only offense comes from his batting average. Guess his WAR accumulated so far without looking. 1.9. I think we should keep him, despite his questionable bat. If he figures 'something' out, he could certainly be a 5 Player from here, taking him to a career of 7. Certainly a 5% shot.
Time to jump to the pitchers. It's really easy to say, "He stinks. Release him" or "DFA this guy". Sometimes, that makes sense. Few, if any, see even a 1-in-100 shot of Casey Coleman or Justn Germano posting a 5.0 combined over the next few years. Some would throw Chris Volstad on the same bonfire. I won't be upset to see any of them go away. They have histories, more than futures, as pitchers. Those histories weren't pretty. Manny Corpas' WAR was sub-zero last season.
Now, the younger guys. Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley were a mixed bag last season. There won't be unanimity on either, but I don't think 7 starts (Rusin -0..7 WAR) or 5 starts (Raley -0.9) is enough to know anything for sure. They will start in Iowa, and come up to Wrigley 'after the purge'. I think there is at least a 5 % chance that either of them figure out location and changing speeds enough to be a 5.0 career player from 2013 onward.
It's fashionable to hate Lendy Castillo's game. His ERA was 7.88, and his WAR was -0.5. Would someone pick him up if we DFA'd him? Houston probably would. Castillo is no longer subject to Rule 5 Rules. He figures to be a starter in Tennessee next year. Whether you liked him clogging a roster spot or not, he has 3 Options left, and has a MLB-lively arm. If he has an ERA over 5 next year, then yeah, he can be DFA'd. But until such time as that happens, he isn't blocking anyone in AA. Give him the ball.
Jake Brigham came over in the Soto trade. He had a middling WHIP, high strikeout numbers, and a propensity for giving up the longball when the Cubs picked him up. Then, he pitched horribly before being shut down for Tennessee. I'm a bit over ambivalent on him. You can say you heard a scout say he isn't anything special. Fine. Whatever. I think a 93 ish MPH on a starter that strikes people out (and has 2 Options left) represents a 5% chance of being a 5 WAR player for his career. If he is healthy. I'd keep him on the 40 Man. Let him be in the mix with Rusin, Raley, and Struck in AAA. Beats having to trot out Berkan and Germano in September. And if AAA hitters light him up, DFA him when a better option shows up.
Gerardo Concepcion has an asterisk in his situation. He was turrible in Low A last season. Was it due to injury? Or getting adjusted? Or him just being bad? Maybe a bit of all 3. That said, Cuban players probably carry weight with Cuban players. This is pure, unadulterated hypothesis, but if a 21 year old Cuban defects this month (it could happen), he might talk with Concepcion about his Cubs experience. And Rubi Silva. And Jorge Soler. So, let's say a slugging Cuban hitter is BFF with Concepcion. Hypothetically After defecting, he calls Gerardo. "How do you like the Cubs?" "I hate them. We signed a deal, I got hurt, and they tried to take my money from me." I keep Concepcion for another year. If he can't get people out in May, let him go when we dumpster-dive for some back-up catcher or reliever. Unless a big-name Cuban defects. Then you keep him around and axe someone else.
I'm on record as wanting to add Logan Watkins, Christian Villanueva, and Trey McNutt to the 40 Man.. Why? I think they have an over 5% chance of being 5 WAR players for their careers. I think Nick Struck merits adding, though he would be really close to the limits. What about Robert Whitenack? Or Starling Peralta? Or......?
I have no idea who Houston (or anyone else, for that matter) will draft. Whoever they draft in December, they will probably keep him (though other teams place a higher value on 26 man roster spots). It could be one of our guys. Or someone from another team. If someone *right now* doesn't represent a player to exceed the 5% Rule, don't add him. Another year in the minors might get him over the hump. A year of not protecting him may send him elsewhere. But if you've learned anything from the last year, Theo juggles the 40 Man like a boss.
I welcome your assessments on my premise, or my assessments, below. If you have a better way of distinguishing prospect-y-ness, I'd love to hear it. Some guys have great ceilings they will never reach. Some guys are boring as empty paint cans, but help you win games. At least now, when I mention the 5% Rule, you know what I'm talikng about.