WTNYAugust 04, 2004
The NOW Debate
By Bryan Smith

During Spring Training, many people would have told you that Joe Mauer, B.J. Upton and Alexis Rios were the nations top three hitting prospects. Mauer, the consensus top choice, graduated to the Majors on Opening Day. His season has been clouded with a knee injury, but must still be viewed as a success considering his .308/.369/.570 line. Rios was next to hit the AL, landing the call on May 27. The club stuck with him through a 9/50 start, but after a .343/.381/.495 July, has received solid play from their prized 23-year-old. After these two hit the Majors, debate began on which two players trailed Upton.

An easy choice was David Wright, the 21-year-old third basemen sporting a Scott Rolen comparison. Wright was finishing a .363/.467/.619 season in the Eastern League when people started wondering if he might be better than B.J. Upton. Dayn Perry, BPs minor league guy, wrote a great piece on the debate last week, proving Upton emphatically. But Wright was still second, and by great lengths, thanks to showing few flaws in his entire game. The question became, who was the games third-best hitting prospect? Or better phrased, who immediately trailed Wright in third base rankings?

Dallas McPherson or Andy Marte? Pick your poison. The two are no longer battling for second or third, but first after watching Wright and Upton debut. Wright has struggled a bit since receiving a heros welcome in the Big Apple, though he did hit his second home run on Sunday, fittingly when Upton was called up. But Lou Piniella chose not to play Upton on Sunday, instead choosing his first game to be Monday, where he went 1/3 in front of a nationally televised audience. His departure leaves a gaping hole for the top spot, one surely filled by either McPherson or Marte.

Point #1 will lean towards Marte: age. McPherson was selected in the second round of the 2001 draft out of the Citadel. Three years later, Dallas is on the heels of his Major League debut at 24-years-old. Marte is a far different case, as the Braves signed the Dominican when he was just 16-years-old. That came in 2000, meaning Atlantas top prospect is in the Southern League at the tender age of twenty. While youth is always a positive in prospectdom, Moneyball readers will surely attest a college education aint bad. McPherson spent three years at the Citadel, posting these numbers in the process:


Year AB AVE ISoP ISO
1999 87 0.241 0.089 0.081
2000 233 0.378 0.061 0.219
2001 242 0.347 0.083 0.227
*ISoP is simply OBP-AVE

Though his overall slugging went down from sophomore to junior season0, this is more indicative of a decline in singles, seeing that he had six more extra-base hits. His plate discipline returned to freshman form, showing his overall game improved in 2001. McPherson was a great talent in a draft filled with them, though Im surprised the seemingly complete college athlete was nowhere on Billy Beanes wish list.

After signing relatively quickly, McPherson was sent to the Provo Angels, where he had 124 at-bats in the Pioneer League. Across Rookie League ball, over in the Appalachian league, the Rome Braves were busy unveiling a 17-year-old third basemen that managed 125 AB.

In true Perry style, their side-by-side Rookie League comparisons:

 
Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
McPherson 124 0.395 0.065 0.210
Marte 125 0.200 0.124 0.072

Interesting is how Martes numbers parallel McPhersons...as a college freshman. Low average, no power, lots of walks, yeah, Dallas knew that story well. While age will be a constant theme here, let me say that in 2001, Andy Marte was the age McPherson was as a high school junior. Dallas numbers were as they should have been, dominating, almost a statistical repeat of his sophomore year in college. His average was way up, with Isolated Patience and Power numbers only percentage points from his 2000 year.

Staying conservative, the Angels put McPherson into the Midwest League. Atlanta, despite Martes 2001 struggles, showed the confidence to put the 18-year-old into the Sally League. Their low-A numbers:


Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
McPherson 499 0.277 0.104 0.150
Marte 488 0.281 0.058 0.211

McPherson changed into a different player overnight, becoming someone we hadnt seen before, and havent seen since. His thirty steals were a career high; his .427 SLG was the lowest since his freshman season. The ISO was a still solid .150, and his Isolated Patience was over .100 for the first and last time of his professional career. As for Marte, the comparisons to McPhersons college years continue, as his 2002 can be viewed as the sophomore season. His IsoP reached an all new low of .058, but his ISO was above .200 for the first time. This can be attributed to the 53 doubles he hit, showcasing just how much power was in that bat.

Then came 2003, when McPherson truly broke out of his shell, giving the Angels confidence he could be their 2005 third basemen. The team was aggressive, promoting him half way through the year, so his high-A stats will only represent 77 games. Atlanta stayed on the one level per year pace with Marte, very young for the Carolina League at 19. The numbers:


Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
McPherson 292 0.308 0.096 0.298
Marte 463 0.285 0.087 0.184


Again, we see the similarity between Martes minor league numbers, and McPhersons from college. While his overall line doesnt look quite as impressive as the 2002 line, we saw his Isolated Patience go from .058 to .087. His drop in ISO, still at .184, is due to Myrtle Beach, one of the minors most extreme pitching havens. Over in the California League, Dallas McPherson became feared, seeing his ISO rise to .298. His 1.010 OPS was ridiculous, leaving some to call the 23-year-old the Angels best prospect. High praise in a system with Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis and Ervin Santana, wouldnt you say?

Between 28 games last year and 68 this season, McPherson nearly had a full season of work at AA. Combining the seasons statistics was a wee bit difficult, so I cant promise the OBP and SLG are exact (though close). Martes numbers are his current stats through Sunday:

 
Name AB AVE ISoP ISO
McPherson 364 0.319 0.088 0.316
Marte 261 0.284 0.089 0.295

Story #1 here is Andy Marte, who has become atop prospect after taking his ISO to .300-like levels. Anyone worried that an ankle injury would derail Marte was wrong, considering his number 17 and 18 home runs came in a game last week. His Patience stayed the same, but now we get to see how important the milestone of reaching 20, and leaving the FSL really are. As for McPherson, this is basically the same story told in the California League: ISO over .300, OPS over 1.000, yawn. Note to Bill Stonemann: dont worry about talking with that Troy Glaus guy.

Finally, the updated AAA season numbers for McPherson, also through Sunday:


AB AVE ISoP ISO
124 0.290 0.046 0.404

Evaluating his numbers from a whole, we see a four-system decline in Patience, and the same four-system rise in Isolated Power. Who knows if McPherson will stay in this form, someone that doesnt walk much, or revert back to his old .090 Isolated Patience numbers. His .404 ISO is insane, but remember, Salt Lake is a hitters haven.

Of all the numbers I just threw at you, I most recommend comparing the AA numbers of the two. Marte, four years McPhersons junior, had a higher IsoP, and an ISO only .021 points behind. While his contact skills have been a bit lower than McPhersons during their professional careers, he looks prime to make a leapfrog in the peripheral categories.

If I had to guess, Marte should mold into a .285/.380/.520 player, becoming an All-Star with the Braves. He should be on the Alexis Rios path, starting the year in the International League and getting the call around next June. What Scheurholtz does between now and then is anyone's guess, but we better stop calling them out of the race.

As for McPherson, his future doesn't appear to be so clean cut. His evaporating walk numbers are discouraging, even despite some fantastic slugging percentages. He appears more along the lines of .300/.360/.500, though the SLG I expect to be volatile throughout his career. Like the third basemen that precedes him, I expect Dallas to have huge ups and downs in his career. He'll never be the player Hank Blalock is across the division, but a middle of the order threat for sure.

There's really not a story here folks, Andy Marte is the top prospect in baseball. He's one of the Southern League's most dominant hitters at the age of twenty, and his numbers reflect a huge breakout down the road. Avkash Patel be damned, the Braves just might never stop being contenders.

Comments

NO IT SHOULD BE DOPIRAK!

There is almost nothing in the prospect world that gets me more upset than people thinking Dallas McPherson is a good/great prospect. I will guarantee you that McPherson will never hit .300 in a full season in the bigs and will be hard pressed to even reach .250. He's a 24-year-old with a AAA strikeout to unintentional walk ratio of 8. That is offensive, and not in a good way. He has 56 strikeouts in 131 at bats. He will be Dean Palmer if everything breaks right. His best years will be like Troy Glaus' worst, if things work out. He is the most overrated prospect in baseball.

Fabian loves to hate McPherson... but he's made me very skeptical. I'm rebuilding in my salaried rotoleague (I took over a crap team from somebody else), and I have an offer of dealing a expensive Hinske for Jesse Crain and Dallas McPherson. Now I'm not so sure.

I don't when/why my quest against the high-ranking of McPherson began, but every time I see/hear his name and "top prospect" in the same sentence it really gets me going. So I apoligize if I am a little irrational at times. Then again, this could mean great things for Dallas as the last player I felt was overrated was Alexis Rios and he's doing fine, though I never was against him as much as I am against Dallas.

Good stuff, as always.

Andy Marte vs. Miguel Cabrera comps lead me to believe Marte will post .550+ SLG for a very, very long time once he's settled in at the highest level. If in turn he adopts his game (so far there is no reason to think he won't) and takes the free passes the opposition will give him, we're talking about another Manny Ramirez in his peak years...at third base.

Hands down number one prospect in baseball.

Let me first say that I agree with Avkash that Andy Marte is now the top prospect in baseball. And to half-support Fabian's claims, I don't even think McPherson is second, which is another article waiting to happen. With that being said, don't let Fabian tell you that McPherson is bad. While quick to point out his K/BB is not doing well in AAA, he entered the season with a 254/150 ratio, and left AA with a 328/184 ratio.

The numbers in AAA are discouraging, which is why I have a hard time believing his career OBP in the Majors will be bad. But not a .300 hitter? Contact seems to be his strong point, seeing as though before AAA (where he's hitting .290), only the Midwest League and his Freshman year of college didn't have .300 in the average column. But, I'll admit, his declining patience skills are an issue.

He's hit for average in the minors, but his K:BB has gotten worse each step of the way and he's ALWAYS hit in either hitters parks or hitters leagues or both. That plus his not being overly young color me unimpressed. I don't even think he's a top 20 prospect off hand.

Free Jason Kubel!!