Finding the Next Pierre and Frandsen

* Note: In the comments, nik points out my data is incomplete, which was not known to me prior to publishing this. Check the discussion below and take the data and conclusions with a grain of salt. Sorry for the inconvenience.

At various times here on the blog, I’ve talked about how lucky the Phillies got with Juan Pierre and Kevin Frandsen last season. Both originally signed to Minor League deals, Pierre hit .307 in 439 plate appearances as the Phillies’ every day left fielder while Frandsen hit .338 in 210 PA in what was a breakout year for him, one that earned him an $850,000 payday for 2013. For Pierre, it was his second-most productive season in the last eight years, while Frandsen had by far the most success he’s had at the Major League level at the age of 30.

How did other players signed to Minor League deals fare in 2012? Only four players — Pierre, Jose Lopez Dewayne Wise, and Frandsen — logged 200 or more PA. In fact, only 14 of the 27 players signed to Minor League deals that took at least one PA in the Majors last season logged 100 or more. Six of them hit .260 or better, but of those six, only three logged at least 100 PA in doing so. Four players, minimum 100 PA, posted an on-base percentage of .315 or better. Three, minimum 100 PA, slugged over .400. Only two (Pierre and Wise) swiped five or more bases.

In terms of Wins Above Replacement, via FanGraphs, only three were worth at least one win: Pierre (1.7), Frandsen (1.6), and Austin Kearns (1.2). In total, only 12 of the 27 were above replacement level and as a group, they averaged 0.1 WAR.

Name Team PA SB BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Juan Pierre Phillies 439 37 5.2% 6.2% .307 .351 .371 .320 1.7
Kevin Frandsen Phillies 210 0 4.3% 8.6% .338 .383 .451 .362 1.6
Austin Kearns Marlins 175 2 12.6% 25.1% .245 .366 .367 .331 1.2
DeWayne Wise - – - 239 19 4.6% 21.8% .259 .293 .429 .310 0.9
Chris Gimenez Rays 109 0 7.3% 22.0% .260 .315 .330 .289 0.6
Dan Johnson White Sox 31 0 29.0% 9.7% .364 .548 .818 .550 0.6
Xavier Paul Reds 96 4 9.4% 18.8% .314 .379 .465 .365 0.5
Dioner Navarro Reds 73 0 2.7% 16.4% .290 .306 .449 .317 0.4
Travis Buck Astros 81 0 7.4% 22.2% .216 .284 .311 .266 0.3
Jeremy Hermida Padres 27 1 11.1% 25.9% .250 .333 .375 .299 0.2
Bill
Hall
Orioles 14 0 35.7% 50.0% .222 .500 .556 .439 0.1
Rick Ankiel Nationals 171 1 7.0% 34.5% .228 .282 .411 .294 0.0
Cesar Izturis - – - 173 1 1.7% 7.5% .241 .254 .343 .259 0.0
Aaron Laffey Blue Jays 1 0 0.0% 0.0% .000 .000 .000 .000 0.0
Rob Johnson Mets 58 0 6.9% 17.2% .250 .298 .288 .248 0.0
Matt Young Tigers 11 0 0.0% 81.8% .100 .182 .200 .180 0.0
Koyie Hill Cubs 39 0 0.0% 17.9% .179 .179 .205 .168 -0.1
Will Rhymes Rays 137 1 7.3% 12.4% .228 .299 .285 .266 -0.2
Brooks Conrad - – - 105 0 5.7% 41.0% .133 .181 .306 .211 -0.2
Fred Lewis Mets 25 0 16.0% 20.0% .150 .320 .150 .227 -0.3
Drew Sutton - – - 130 0 4.6% 32.3% .254 .292 .393 .297 -0.3
Ronny Paulino Orioles 64 0 1.6% 14.1% .254 .266 .302 .249 -0.3
Willie Harris Reds 48 1 6.3% 16.7% .114 .170 .205 .170 -0.4
Jose Lopez - – - 248 0 3.6% 16.5% .246 .270 .356 .272 -0.4
Omar Vizquel Blue Jays 163 3 4.3% 10.4% .235 .265 .281 .242 -0.6
Xavier Nady - – - 166 1 7.8% 22.3% .184 .253 .316 .248 -0.6
Hideki Matsui Rays 103 0 7.8% 21.4% .147 .214 .221 .195 -1.0

The Phillies snagged what turned out to be the top two players in the Minor League contract class. Pierre has since moved on to the Miami Marlins, while Frandsen returns as one of the back-up infielders on a Major League deal. The odds of either player repeating last year’s success is slim, and the odds of the Phillies finding one player, let alone two, that will be as productive as Pierre and Frandsen were on Minor League deals is even slimmer.

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32 comments

  1. JM

    February 21, 2013 09:06 AM

    Bill, What about as defensive replacements? I know we value offense above all else, but I would argue that Pete Orr has been a decent value for the Phillies over the last 2 yrs on a minor league contract. Filling in for all the time missed by Utley and Polanco has been a bear, and Orr has been the best of them, up until Frandsen…

  2. TomG

    February 21, 2013 09:28 AM

    Slim and slimmer … I like those odds!

    Though he’s unlikely to repeat last season’s performance, Frandsen, I think, had earned the right to be given a shot at starting at third this season. That’s what makes the M. Young deal so perplexing: We had a cheaper (and therefore better) alternative already on the roster. The chances that Young will return to 2011 form are probably slim and slimmer, too. Maybe even slimmerer than Frandsen’s hitting over .300 this year.

    I hope Young does return to form, but I’m not holding my breath.

    It’s just a bummer that RAJ prefers going outside the organization for “solutions” rather than giving the players he already has a chance. This propensity of Amaro’s is even more glaring in the case of Dom Brown. The acquisition of D. Young strongly implies that if Brown is ever given a chance to break out, it won’t be with the Phillies. He’ll end up being traded for less than he’s worth and will probably be an above-average starter for someone other than the Phillies in the very near future. RAJ has kept him so far, but seems not to have any plans to use him in any meaningful way.

    It’s frustrating to see that happening.

    I’m glad D. Young will be starting the year on the DL because that might give Dom a small window to make an impression and win a starting job. He’d already earned that right, in my opinion.

  3. nik

    February 21, 2013 09:50 AM

    Not sure where you got your list of minor league signings, Bill, but Gregor Blanco was a minor league pickup for the Giants and he had 453 PAs and 2.4 fWAR last season. If you’re missing him, who else are you missing.

  4. nik

    February 21, 2013 10:14 AM

    Here are a couple more:

    Quintin Berry, 330 PAs, 1.0 fWAR.
    Joaquin Arias, 344 PAs, 1.0 fWAR.

    Only reason is bring it up is that the quantity of these guys is pretty relevant to the point of the article.

  5. BobSmith77

    February 21, 2013 10:21 AM

    Irony – All offseason on here people have bemoaned the fact that Amaro went off guys who don’t take BBs and are below average/poor defenders yet wanted Frandsen to get a ‘shot at start at 3B.’ Ugh.

    Frandsen doesn’t talk walks or work counts, is a below average/poor defender at 3B because of his weak arm and slow reactions, and really overachieved offensively last year in large part because of his % LD which was well above his career norm.

    He’s a possible adequate solution as a bench player at the kind of veteran minimum that Amaro signed to him & nothing more.

  6. nik

    February 21, 2013 10:23 AM

    Bob, I don’t think anyone was pining for Frandsen to get the everyday job. The idea was to pair him up with a guy like Chavez to form a platoon.

  7. LarryM

    February 21, 2013 10:41 AM

    The other point about Frandsen is that the fact that, with all of Frandsen’s very real deficiencies, M. Young still may not be an upgrade, is a pretty telling fact.

    On the offensive side of the coin, IF Frandsen regresses (likely) and IF Young rebounds (likely to some extent), then yes Young is a better option. But his strength is not exactly plate discipline either.

    On the defensive side of the coin, on a career basis, if you put weight on metrics, Frandsen is better. And MUCH better if Young’s SSS defensive decline exhibited in 2012 is even halfway “real.”

    Even if you are a skeptic of defensive metrics, Young’s third base defense has never been well regarded, and it would be far from unusual – in fact, would be the norm – for a third baseman in his mid 30s to lose some range.

    Mind you, I’d much rather have M. Young on my team than Delmon Satan Young.

  8. hk

    February 21, 2013 10:45 AM

    Bob,

    1. What nik said.

    2. Most, if not all, of the complaints were about the fact that they spent $7.2M and traded two young, cheap bullpen arms to “upgrade” to Michael Young, who also doesn’t take walks and is a worse defensive 3B than Frandsen.

  9. Evan

    February 21, 2013 10:50 AM

    Frandsen will regress, he had a great season last year, but it was propped by batted ball luck. I expect he’ll see a good amount playing time with Young at third anyway, we’ll get a chance to see what he can do.

  10. Bill Baer

    February 21, 2013 11:40 AM

    @ nik

    Thanks for catching that. Not sure why MLBTR didn’t have them. Berry signed 11/9/11; Arias signed 12/15/11; and Blanco signed 1/18/12, so it isn’t like they stopped updating and missed them.

  11. Kevin

    February 21, 2013 12:17 PM

    Podsednik also came to the Phillies’ camp on a minor league deal and had a nice season with 216 plate appearances.

  12. LTG

    February 21, 2013 12:21 PM

    Have you guys been reading Steve Staude’s stuff over at FG, first in the community research area and now on the main page? His recent work on offensive production in the context of a particular team is quite fascinating. His most recent article seems to show that at some point a low-OBP team benefits more from SLG than from OBP (single bases are less productive in low-OBP teams than higher ones). However, if I understand it correctly, that point is rather low in the production spectrum. In other words, RAJ could have a justification for his smuggy utterance, if the Phillies offense were already worse than, say, the 1965 Mets.

  13. Bill Baer

    February 21, 2013 12:23 PM

    @ nik

    Thanks again. I considered deleting the post but I’ll just leave it up since there’s a discussion going on here.

  14. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 12:43 PM

    @LTG,

    Not to sound pessimistic, but there is a non-zero, in fact significantly higher than that, chance that the Phillie’s 2013 offense could be worse than the 1965 Mets. Utley and Howard return to their injury prone selves again; Dom Brown and Darin Ruf are busts; Ben Revere hits like Ben Revere but somehow loses his defensive prowess because he’s sick of covering for the two defensive douchbags on either side of him that he has to play with everyday; Ruiz regresses and turns back into a pumpkin (altho probably STILL a pumpkin who can draw a walk or seven); Rollins’ age finally catches up to him; Douchbag Young, well, being Douchbag Young; M. Young proves that 2012 was not a fluke. Did I miss anything?

    Agreed that ALL of those things happening might be a bit much, but I don’t think anyone here would argue that any of those scenarios are flat out out of the question. We might end up with a team with replacement-level offense.

  15. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 12:46 PM

    @BB,

    On the positive side, that means RAJ DIDN’T find the top two bargains in the minor-league-deal market.

  16. LTG

    February 21, 2013 12:54 PM

    Phillie,

    You might want to read the articles. They are only about offensive production. So, Revere’s defense is irrelevant. And, if the Phillies are as bad as you think they could be, guys like D. Young and Ruf would become more valuable to the team because they hit for power, when they hit.

    Look, there’s a ~5% chance that the Phillies will win <64 games this year. That's significantly better than merely non-zero. But what is more interesting is to look at the less unlikely outcomes for the team in order to evaluate the team's construction.

  17. LTG

    February 21, 2013 12:55 PM

    “On the positive side, that means RAJ DIDN’T find the top two bargains in the minor-league-deal market.”

    That’s a positive?

  18. nik

    February 21, 2013 01:38 PM

    Also consider the minor league guys the Phils let go in the last few years that became excellent contributors: Vogelsong, Brandon Moss, Jason Grilli. Of course the most famous example of a minor league guy turning into a star is RA Dickey.

  19. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 02:10 PM

    @LTG,

    The point of the replacement-level offense was sarcastic :) You know better that I wouldn’t defend RAJ on any front.

    It’s a positive in that even in trying to sideways praise RAJ, BB missed the mark, so RAJ looks not so competent again. Not positive for the team, no.

  20. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 02:16 PM

    @nik,

    As much as I dislike RAJ, I don’t place the blame on him for letting go of those players. Every GM can put together a list of players they let go that end up coming back to haunt them. As far as Dickey goes, he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until 3 years ago, at age 35. That’s just fluky.

  21. Richard

    February 21, 2013 02:17 PM

    I didn’t get the impression that Bill was even “sideways” praising Amaro, so much as noting the unlikelihood of being that lucky with such crapshoot barrel-scrapings two years in a row.

  22. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 02:32 PM

    @Richard,

    I was anticipating the argument from RAJ defenders, “lucky or not, he DID get them.”

  23. Cutter

    February 21, 2013 03:54 PM

    @Phillie697 -

    At this point, I have to ask: Do you want the Phillies to succeed this season?

    Maybe I’m misinterpreting this, but based on your comments, I get the impression that you want the Phillies to fail so that you could be proven correct about Amaro.

  24. Jonny5

    February 21, 2013 04:10 PM

    By Phillie697 on Feb 21, 2013

    @BB,

    On the positive side, that means RAJ DIDN’T find the top two bargains in the minor-league-deal market.

    Are you mental or what? I can’t believe you want him to fail so you can smug out about being right that he’s a moron. WOW….. Are you sure you aren’t a Braves fan in disguise? ;>P

  25. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    February 21, 2013 04:40 PM

    On the point about Moss, Grilli and Vogelsong: I’ve actually been wondering about this for a while. It seems, at least anecdotally, like a significant number of guys the Phillies have brought in on minor league deals have gone on to excel: Moss and Grilli, for instance, played well enough at Lehigh Valley a couple of years ago that plenty of fans were crying out for their promotions, and they had similar luck with Pierre, Fransden and (more quietly) Raul Valdes last year. And even Posednick played pretty well for Boston before he got hurt.

    My question is, is it just my perceptual bias that it seems like the Phillies sign at an above-average number of these fringe guys who go on to be productive, if not during their time with the Phillies then soon after? Or does every team have a bunch of stories like this that I don’t know because I don’t follow them so closely. It does seem like one area in which the quality of a team’s scouting network would provide it an advantage.

  26. Phillie697

    February 21, 2013 05:52 PM

    It’s not a question of whether I want RAJ to be a moron or not, because in my mind, he IS. That’s why you can’t accept my comments, because you haven’t come around to that conclusion yet.

  27. Cutter

    February 21, 2013 06:05 PM

    @Phillie697

    That wasn’t the question. The question is: Do you want the Phillies to succeed?

  28. Bill Baer

    February 21, 2013 09:06 PM

    @ ACA

    I think you hear more about the guys that succeed and quickly forget about the ones that flame out. For instance, do you remember Scott Elarton was in existence, in the Phillies’ organization, last season?

  29. Phillie697

    February 22, 2013 10:23 AM

    @Cutter,

    Here is a quote from my fantasy GM comment from the another thread: “And then I would pray like hell that Utley and Howard somehow found the fountain of youth, because if they did, with my pitching staff, I would STILL have a shot at the playoffs.” Yeah, that sure sounds like someone who doesn’t want his team to succeed. My question is, does RAJ want this team to succeed? Because some of his moves sure as heck don’t help us to do so.

    Don’t confuse my distaste for the man who destroyed my baseball team for a lack of loyalty to the team. I can easily question your blind loyalty to a dumb GM as not wanting this team to succeed either.

  30. Cutter

    February 22, 2013 01:33 PM

    You still haven’t answered the question. Obviously, if you were the GM you would want the team to succeed.

    And “destroyed” your baseball team? Sigh…

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