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Evaluating Cubs Pitching Prospects, Part 1: Jake Stinnett

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Here begins my three-part look at Cubs pitching prospects, and how to evaluate them adequately. There can be four "true outcomes" for prospects.

Jake Stinnett pitching for Maryland in June 2014
Jake Stinnett pitching for Maryland in June 2014
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Many of us are familiar with the hitter with the "three true outcome" hitters. Adam Dunn was the poster child for players who would walk, fan, or homer with far greater regularity than one might expect. A "true outcome" effectively leaves the defense out of the equation. In the process of writing the articles on hitters, I began to realize that prospects in general provide a similar parallel. There is a way to cast aside the trappings, after the fact, at least. As needed, there are four "true outcomes" for prospects.

Beating some of you to the punch, yes I pay too much attention to the farm system. I am completely guilty of that non-crime. If I were this into minor league stuff when the Cubs had a team in Rockford, I would have overdosed on the topic then. Except for the "the prospects then weren't all that good" thing. It would be nice, though, to have a Cubs affiliate on terrestrial radio. The Blackhawks have a "Triple-A team" in Rockford. If developing a pipeline that is a key part in the puzzle wasn't a priority for the Cubs now, I might be a hockey guy right now. I'd be able to tell you the lines on the Rockford Ice Hogs, and have an idea who's next.

Fortunately, or not, I'm still a baseball guy.

Jake Stinnett was a hitter for some of his time in college. He started his college career as a third baseman in 2011 and became all Ben Zobrist-y as a sophomore in 2012: Some first, some outfield, some pitching, and some pinch hitting for good measure. He converted to pitching in 2013, and the Pirates drafted him in the 29th round on a nice try at a value grab. Instead, Stinnett returned to school, and had a very nice 2014.

Aftet being drafted, he had one game televised on the ESPN family of networks in June. He was a grindy pitcher that day, pitching largely in the upper-80s, touching the low 90s. People who love jumping to quick conclusions assumed, in part off of the velocity readings, it was a stupid pick.

After his college season, he signed as a Cubs second-round pick for a seven-figure bonus, went to Arizona, and rested his arm for awhile. In a late-season stint in Boise, he was playing against younger players. In two outings, he surrendered five base-runners in a tick over six innings. In his post-season start, I remember comments of mid-90s velocity. Presumably, the high-80s/low 90s wasn't his peak. Tweaking deliveries, and shorter outings, will do that.

Stinnett figures to start the 2015 campaign in South Bend, with a bump to Myrtle Beach in line. But then, none of this has had anything to do with the four true outcomes.

***

When a player is drafted, the (dare I say) impatient reaction is, "Tim, how will he do in the major leagues?" I'm doing my best to quell that line of thinking. Others will feed it. They might even project it accurately. However, I think draft day assessment is rather hasty. Even (or especially) when I do it. I did not like the Schwarber pick at all on draft night. By the time I had listened to him a bit, watching him club two homers in a game in Beloit, and listened to his hot streak in the Florida State League for the Daytona Cubs, my misgivings were long dismissed. New information should quickly augment perceived ignorance every single time.

However, when a player is selected in a draft, there are, effectively, four options for him. Each of the four has a range, but laying out the four as options can lay a groundwork for improved evaluation. The most likely (from a numbers perspective) for most would be option one; "Not Reaching Double-A (Or Higher)". When a kid is pegged in the 28th round and heads to Mesa, there is a very realistic chance he won't make Double-A ball. Whatever percent option you place on that for him, you plug in that number.

The next option is "Some Time In Upper Minors".  These guys advance to the upper levels, but never get the cup of coffee. Whatever likelihood you place on that for a prospect, you give him that for Option Two.

The third option is "MLB Career", which entails anyone making it to the majors, but posting a career WAR of less than 10. Obviously, Option Four is "Long MLB Career", with long being defined as 10 WAR or more.

This plays rather well, for me, with Stinnett. He has a surgically inserted pin in his elbow, from long before his college days. When dealing with a player with a pitcher with a pin in his elbow, that's a concern. Obviously. From the Four True Outcomes perspective, it probably increases the chance that he will end up in one of the two options you don't want. That said, if his velocity can retain his mid-90's with any consistency, he might move quickly through the system.

His arm is relatively fresh, as he hasn't done all the showcase games as a pitcher growing up. Again, there's good and bad in that, as he has had less time to develop his secondary stuff. He has what I would consider a better-than-average chance, for a second-round selection, to reach the 10 WAR echelon. If he does that, as a below-slot value selection, that would be aces.

I figure he will be moved up rather quickly once he has proven he is better than a league. Any pitchers are risky, but ones with elbow accessories might be even more so.

When valuing Stinnett, if he hits 10 WAR, you should be pretty happy. That said, if his elbow becomes a story, he might not reach the majors at all. Treat him as a better-than standard early second round pick. You probably thought I would show the historic 45th picks in the draft sooner. The best of all-time is Jed Lowrie at 8.6 WAR. That said, the recent selection have generally better than ones from decades ago. This shouldn't be a surprise, as teams are better at player selection/development now.

And if Stinnett progresses and stays healthy, he may be better than most.