Crash Bag Vol. 18: Trading Cesar

Thank you to Brad for doing this last week, and for being much funnier in the process than I am. It has been a really bad week of results for the major league club, so why not talk about trading their best player so far, and answer some other questions along the way as well.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@mweintr: Should Cesar Hernandez be traded now, when his value is highest?

It has become trendy to to want teams to keep trading and churning players, always looking for value. This is not the worst strategy when you know you are going to be a non-contender for the remainder of a player’s contract. However, Cesar will turn 27 just over 2 weeks from now and still has 3 more years of control through arbitration. He is currently batting a BABIP influenced .336/.379/.517 with a career high strikeout rate and career low walk rate. History says his power should trend down, and his walk and strikeout rates should trend positively towards his career averages. He is on pace for a 6+ WAR season, which is probably unsustainable, but he should be able to repeat his 4 win season from a year ago, barring an unexpected collapse. That is a really good baseball player, and if you are going to trade someone of his caliber, with his level of remaining control, you are going to want a haul back.

Trading Cesar now would inhibit the team’s ability to contend over the next few year so I wouldn’t shop Cesar, but I would listen. The problem then becomes, who is calling to trade for Cesar. Here are last year’s playoff teams and their starting second baseman.

Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia
Indians – Jason Kipnis
Orioles – Jonathan Schoop
Blue Jays – Devon Travis
Rangers – Rougned Odor
Dodgers – Logan Forsythe
Nationals – Daniel Murphy
Giants – Joe Panik
Mets – Neil Walker
Cubs – Javier Baez

The only team that I see there with a need is the Blue Jays, but they are also currently 9-19 and out of it. So let’s go to other teams above .500 this year.

Yankees – Starlin Castro
Tigers – Ian Kinsler
Twins – Brian Dozier
White Sox – Yoan Moncada*
Astros – Jose Altuve
Brewers – Jonathan Villar
Diamondbacks – Brandon Drury
Rockies – DJ LeMahieu

*Moncada isn’t in the majors right now, but he is the White Sox 2B of the future

I don’t see a lot of places of need for him here. This list is missing the Angels, but their farm does not have the pieces you would need to get back to move Cesar. So what you are really waiting for is an injury, and then for a team to pull the trigger on a big prospect package to lock Cesar in as their 2B for the next 3.5 years. I just don’t see that happening during the season. The earliest I could see the Phillies trading Cesar is this offseason, and if he comes anywhere close to his current pace, he might be too valuable a piece to be trading.

@dannmaal: Andrew Pullin doesn’t get much love on top 20/30 prospect lists but all he does is hit. Where should he rank and what is his upside?

I wrote a bit about Pullin’s journey earlier this week, but I didn’t entirely address how he fits into the farm system now. Coming into the year he was my #28 prospect overall and the the 8th outfield prospect in the system (behind Moniak, Williams, Quinn, Randolph, Cozens, Ortiz, and Tocci). If you just want to look at the outfielders, he has probably passed Tocci, but Tocci is also off to a hot start for Reading, so it is open for debate (Tocci is also almost 2 years younger than Pullin). So part of Pullin’s ranking in the 20-30 range has to do with the Phillies farm system just being really good. He probably is still in the 20-30 range for me, just more towards 20 than 30.

So what is his upside? He can flat out hit, and he has shown over the past year that he can also hit for power. Ultimately, I think his power probably settles into the 18-23 range with a decent amount of doubles. He is however limited in other areas of his game. He does not run on the bases at all. He doesn’t draw walks at a high rate, which will leave him with a poor OBP if his batting average trends down at all. He also is just an average defender in left field, and can’t handle any other position defensively. On a BABIP inflated year that might be a borderline All-Star, but more likely he is probably something close to an average left fielder as his ceiling.

@uublog: At what point do you start worrying about minor league stats, and how much does the level of prospect affect the level of concern?

When the stats match poor performance on the field. That is a copout answer because there is no magical cutoff point. The minor leagues for me are just a mashup of little small sample size runs, and I find the small sample size stats to be much more interesting. Going back to last year, what is the true talent of this player?

.258/.287/.427

.172/.193/.319

.283/.314/.459

I am actually not sure of the answer. This is Nick Williams last year. The first split is his full year numbers. AT first glance, you would assume you have the most information. But we also know that the second number is Williams from August 1 to end of year, and the final number is the rest of his season. We can’t ignore August, but we also know that he was pressing and just a mess during that time. So if we include that into the full season we are expecting him to have huge stretches of just being a disaster at the plate. If we just take the beginning of year sample, we are ignoring that Williams has the ability to become unhinged.

As for level of prospect, it does play some into how I view their stats. Is it a top young prospect at a challenging level (think Arquimedez Gamboa last year)? That is going to be much less alarming to me if they struggle. If it is a player repeating or old for their level who is striking out a ton, that is certainly concerning. It is an objective process, and not one with any hard and fast rules.

Minor league stats are just one part of evaluation, and I find them to not be a terribly good one in isolation. The minor leagues are not the major leagues. Players may be working on developing skills that may not be best for short term winning, but will help them in the long term. There may be hitters that feast on the poor pitching that exists in the minors (below average fastballs, poor breaking balls, bad command), but cannot hit anything that actually translates to the majors. There may be pitchers dominating, because opposing hitters have never actually seen an above average changeup or a pitcher locate a curveball for a called strike. Without the context, you are taking a lot of variables on faith that may not actually be true.

@BobbyWright: I like Altherr and think he deserves to start more. But long term with all their OF prospects do you see him being a starting outfielder?

My philosophy with most of the questions of prospect vs major leaguer has been to side with the player in the majors until the prospect proves they are a better option. I talked about Cesar a bit earlier, but you can’t really argue that you need to move him to make room for say, Scott Kingery until either Cesar falls off or Kingery makes you confident he can be the 4 win player that Cesar was last year. Taking that same situation and translating it to Altherr, it means that Cozens, Quinn, Williams, and other prospects are going to have to prove that they are better than Altherr. That might not be particularly easy, especially if Altherr can keep up some of the positive bits of growth he has shown this year. It also is not as if Altherr lacks in prospect pedigree. He was a top 10 prospect in the system multiple times over the years. He graduated before being ranked after the 2015 season, but at age 24 he hit .293/.367/.487 across AA and AAA. Coming into last year, I had him 12th among the Phillies 25 and under players. He has the talent to be an everyday outfielder, and it is going to take someone proving they are probably a borderline all-star level talent for them to supplant him. Things could still go wrong for Altherr, his strikeout rate is at 26.5% and he is at 28.2% for his major league career. His BABIP is currently .436 so his batting average is likely to fall back into the .260-.270 range over a longer sample size. He could start to trend more towards a part time player if he can’t sustain things like his line drive rate and power production. For now he should be playing near everyday so the Phillies can make that determination of whether he is a long term piece of their future.

Leave a Reply

*

18 comments

  1. Romus

    May 05, 2017 03:22 PM

    Altherr’s splits in almost 500 MLB PAs are revealing.
    He has more power, naturally, vs LHP with an ISO of .205 vs .156 vs RHPs.
    And a lower K rate vs LHPs @20%, but a large delta of 10 for RHPs, above 30%…..which is not a good thing.
    But in 2017 with a sss…..his numbers have ballooned favorably with his added production….except K rate vs RHP which is now approaching 35%.
    Nevertheless, I like to think the newer Aaron Altherr, just maybe also under Matt Stairs tutelage, has found the needed batting approach and production that will keep him as a regular in the Phillie outfield.

  2. Mike Fassano

    May 05, 2017 03:33 PM

    How many of the current “trade chips” do you think will be traded before or at the deadline? What position player or pitcher should be the Phillies top priority? It’s hindsight, but should Freddie Galvis even have been in the lineup yesterday (1-6, and a huge error)? I notice that he’s in the lineup again tonight.

    • Steve

      May 06, 2017 12:35 PM

      Hard to say the Phillies should target a specific position because they have a young player or prospect at every position that could be a long term fit. Were still in waiting mode to see who pans out and who doesnt. I would say they should target young talent as opposed to a specific position in any trades.

      • Mike Fassano

        May 06, 2017 02:38 PM

        I agree that we should continue to stockpile future assets, but more at the AA – AAA levels. We should wait at least another month before we consider bringing up Hoskins. I believe in him, but if he flops, that’s one position where we don’t have depth. Galvis and Hernandez are both very good players, but both lack basic baseball smarts. Bowa-Trillo, and Rollins-Utley had baseball smarts, and so do Crawford-Kingery. I like what I see in the young pitching staff, despite Pete’s awful use of them. We literally have All Star caliber outfielders coming out of our yazoo, and that will work it’s way out once Saunders and Kendrick are gone.

      • Romus

        May 06, 2017 05:56 PM

        Mike F…………..”we literally have All-Star caliber outfielders coming out of our yazoo….”
        You are pretty optimistic
        Altherr, Williams, Cozens and Quinn….all have the obvious physical tools, but you still have the consistently hit the baseball over an extended period of time to qualify for All-Star recognition.
        Herrera did it last season and this season he will not make it unless his bat picks up more than his current slash of .257/.319.723.
        Altherr is the only one who has shown some sort of semblance of an All-Star…but that is a SSS of only 73PAs.

      • Steve

        May 06, 2017 08:13 PM

        Yeah i dont think we should get too far ahead of ourselves with any of the minor leaguers. I hear what Mike is saying, when you start to look at Herrera, Altherr, Williams, Cozens, Quinn, and even Moniak and Randolph further out, it seems like an embarassment of riches. Realistically i think you have to figute that two from that list will not reach their potential and one or two will be traded.

  3. boomerbubba

    May 07, 2017 12:54 AM

    -
    -13

    In my humble opinion, the Phils by now should be way past the point of trading away their stars in the making for washed-up players or prospects just because. The Phils for too long have been like a farm system for perennial contending teams to cherry pick from.
    They need to identify the foundation, or core of a future team — like Hernandez, Herrera, Franco and Rupp — keep them and pay them well, then spend the rest of the year trying to solidify the other positions. That means bringing up the talent from the farm system by the All-Star break, if not before. It’s clear this team is going nowhere, although there are some good role players who could potentially win a starting role. The team is better than last year and is at least in most games, shown spunk, and has lost some heart-breakers. Altherr is doing better than I thought he would. Thank goodness they sent Morgan down early. But face it, other than the core players, talent is mediocre. It should not be a rebuilding year, but a building year.

    • Ed

      May 07, 2017 07:53 AM

      Aside from Franco, I don’t think any of those aforementioned will be parading down Broad Street anytime soon. Rupp? Really, he can’t call a game to save his job. Hernandez is lost on the base paths and Herrera looks like Peter Rabbit running away from Farmer MacGregor tracking down fly balls.

      • Romus

        May 07, 2017 08:35 AM

        Ed…….as Barry Kripke would say,
        …have to give this to Peter Wabbit, he may wun weird, but he does have some plus SDI metrics how wever.

      • ed

        May 07, 2017 03:00 PM

        R, remember what happened to Peter’s dad, he was put in a pie. SDI is not the be all and end all.

    • Steve

      May 07, 2017 09:27 AM

      Bubba, i agree they shouldnt be teading away prosoect for aging guys, but im not sure who you think has been “cherry picked” by contending teams in the recent past. If you are referring to Hamels or Giles, i would argue that we got the better end of those deals so far.
      Rupp, Hernandez are not pieces to build around,and the other two may be above average role players at best. The hope is that the picture is clearer by the end of the season, but this team is still 2 years away from serious playoff contention IMO.

      • boomerbubba

        May 07, 2017 06:11 PM

        Utley, Werth, I’m sure there’s more. I realize a lot of it is contracts, etc. Of course hindsight is 20-20 and it’s easy to manage from my dining room.

      • Steve

        May 08, 2017 01:20 PM

        Utley was declining, and Werth was not traded, he was majorly overpaid as a FA. Im personally glad were not on the hook for that contract

  4. boomerbubba

    May 07, 2017 06:08 PM

    What this team needs is a couple of wins, either come from behind or late-inning wins, to get them going. They seem to have some character, and that will help give them more confidence.

  5. glovesdroppa

    May 08, 2017 10:20 PM

    Man, trading Cesar I never even thought of that. That’s tough, he’s looked really good this year and he was our best OB% guy the last few yrs. His value might never be higher, it would depend on the return.

  6. Craig Morton

    May 09, 2017 06:52 AM

    I don’t use Twitter and this question can be for the writers and for fellow commenters: what is a decent baseball podcast? Baseball Today died, as did Strike Zone, as did Crash burn Alley, as did MLB Trade Rumors.

    • david

      May 13, 2017 07:53 AM

      Check out The Felske Files podcast by John Stolnis. It covers the Phillies events of the week, and can be a pretty goo listen.

      • david

        May 13, 2017 07:54 AM

        “good”

Next ArticleThe Bullpen Is All Right