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Improved formula for MLB player comparisons

There is nothing like the player comparison when a hot young prospect, in any sport, is arriving or developing at the pro level. Our imaginations love to think over what a favored player could eventually turn out to be and the best case scenario is what is most desirable.

 

One man has gone way beyond the first-thought-that-comes-into-your-head approach to doing player comparisons. 

 

Jeff Moore, a former college baseball player and coach and creator of MLB Prospect Watch, digs deep into research and uses a special formula when evaluating talent to come up with what he believes is a more accurate assessment of comparison.

He spoke to Rockies' Analyst about the theory and process and also discussed Rockies' top hitting prospect Nolan Arenado.

 

The player comp - why do we as fans love it?

It's a natural inclination to want to know what types of players prospects are going to be.  The average fan might not know the difference between average or plus power, but they know what to expect when you say "the next Todd Helton."

We so often hear this player is the next (compared to big star) and that almost never happens. How can we find a formula that better determines a comp? What haven't we known that we need to know to be more accurate in comparing players?

The problem with most comps is that they are done either based on superficial qualities (the organization they're in, the position they play, race, etc.) or are done based on one tool only, like speed or power.  What really needs to be examined are the question marks that a player has between being a prospect and becoming a player.

Why do you believe your formula is a better way?

In a word, detail.  My comparisons consider all of those question marks that a prospect has about his abilities and what kind of development the player might have if they don't work out.  

 

What I do is consider four possibilities to create what I call a "window comparison." I'm looking for the best-case scenario, a realistic ceiling, a realistic floor, and a worst-case scenario.  

 

The best-case scenario can't be ridiculous.  When I did my comp of Mike Stanton, I couldn't say he could end up being Albert Pujols.   They have one major difference - Stanton strikes out a ton despite his production whereas Pujols does not - to keep them from ever being similar types of players.  

 

What I'm looking for are players who have the same attributes and fit the same mold (position, size, body type, etc.) and find players who have had varying levels of success.

Can you share comps of some of the top young prospects in the game? Maybe a Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Matt Moore?

I did an in-depth comparison for The Hardball Times on Mike Trout when he got called up for the first time last summer.  You can find it at http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/making-the-comparison-mike-trout/.

My window comp was was Rickey Henderson as a high-end ceiling with his more realistic floor and ceiling as Cesar Cedeno and Marquis Grissom, respectively, and his worst-case scenario being Darren Lewis. You can read the article for the full explanation into how I got to those players, but at worst he'll be a strong center fielder and base stealer as plate discipline usually translates well, so he should draw some walks at the major league level, leaving only his hitting and power as the question marks.  This window comp takes a look at the end results if his hitting and power develop in different ways.

As for the other two, I haven't researched them in-depth, but off the top of my head, the first person that comes to mind for Bryce Harper is Reggie Jackson, due to the power/strikeout combination they both have.  For Moore, the players I think of are Sid Fernandez or what Erik Bedard was becoming his best seasons with the Orioles before injuries derailed his career.

Can you offer a comp for Rockies' top prospects Nolan Arenado and Drew Pomeranz? (and anyone else like Chad Bettis, Tim Wheeler?)

My next in-depth comparison is on Arenado (click link).

Does your research on comps ever surprise you? Do you have an example?

Absolutely.  Take the Trout comp, for instance.  I had no idea Cedeno was that good.  I kept looking for justification for picking a better player for Trout until I realized just how good Cedeno actually was.  I find myself learning a lot about players who played before my time.

What is the biggest risk in comparing players? 

Mostly just that it's impossible to actually be correct. No two players are the same, so you can never actually get these things right.  My goal isn't to be right though. I'm just trying to give fans a better understanding of who these players are before they get to the majors, what it is that could go right or wrong in their careers, and why players sometimes don't pan out.

 

Part II

Moore's player comp for Arenado had highlights, which I will detail for you. To read the whole evaluation, click here.

*Fangraphs sees Arenado's production as more legitimate than most in the offensive playground that is the High-A California League, where Arenado just graduated.

*Aramis Ramirez (two-time All Star and power hitter) is the first name mentioned as a high-end player comp

*Mike Lowell was mentioned as a more realistic player comp

 

*Tim Wallach, the former Denver Bear and long-time major league player was picked as a low-end realistic comp

*David Bell was chosen as the worst-case scenario player comp

Read the article for a much more detailed explanation of the method and greater understanding.

Follow @RockiesAnalyst

Be sure to check out other great articles at Colorado Rockies Analyst, Colorado Rockies Prospects (2).

By Rockies Analyist
Thursday, 29 Mar 2012

 

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Comments

  • Essential said: The player comparisons are the greatest. That is supposed to be what they have made the whole thing better. - BrandStar Entertainment 10:59AM 04/27/14
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