Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Gross(man) Lesson

.631 .728 .688 .869.  Now the outlier is pretty obvious; it's .869.  It's also Robbie Grossman's OPS last year, a vast improvement over his previous three years.  Generally outliers are just that, outliers.  They are indicative of a fluke or statistical anomaly, but here Grossman's OPS increase represents genuine improvement.

My post headline alludes to a lesson.  So what is the lesson here?  The lesson involves when Grossman's breakout happened.  Grossman, who was ranked by Baseball America as their 49th best draft prospect in 2008, was drafted and signed by the Pirates via a one million dollar signing bonus.  That set the tone for Grossman and he has had the 'benefit' of being a highly touted draft bonus baby ever since.  However, by the conclusion of the 2010 season, that luster had worn off.  Grossman posted the third OPS in that list of .688 while playing as a 20 year-old for Bradenton in the Florida State League.  In that context, it wasn't horrendous season, but it was poor enough that, for example, he had dropped out of John Sickels top 20 list and given (at best) a C grade.  Basically, Grossman was about to become an afterthought as a prospect, if he hadn't already.

Grossman quickly changed that in 2011, posting a .869 OPS, walking more than he struck out, hitting 13 home runs (4 more than in his three other years combined), and becoming the first player to walk 100 times and score 100 runs in the minor leagues since Nick Swisher.  Basically, Grossman had a phenomena year.  That year put him firmly back on the prospect map.  Sickels now has him rated as the Pirates 5th best prospect and bumped his grade up a full letter to a B.  In fact, Grossman could sneak on to a few top 100 lists over the offseason.

I still haven't fully explained my lesson yet, so let me do that.  Most of it is contained in Sickels's comment about Grossman this year.  He states, "If he had fulfilled his commitment to the University of Texas, 2011 would have been his draft year. I know he was repeating High-A, but a player jumping from the college ranks to High-A, hitting .294/.418/.451, then ripping up the Arizona Fall League would be getting an awful lot of praise, not skepticism"  I want to tie that into another group of prep players drafted by the Pirates and given substantial bonuses.  The last two years, it's been a large amount of money given to two second round picks, Stetson Allie and Josh Bell, but in 2009, it was the four pitchers.  That year, the Pirates signed #4 overall pick Tony Sanchez to slot money, but spent big in later rounds.

In the 4th round, the Pirates selected Zack Dodson.  In the 6th, 7th, and 8th, the Pirates grabbed Zack Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, and Colton Cain respectively.  On the four pitchers, the Pirates handed out a little over 3 million dollars in bonuses.  Now attrition has already taken its toll.  Stevenson, who received the smallest bonus by far of 375,000 dollars, struggled at both Low-A West Virginia and short-season State College, posting an abysmal 3.9 K/9 rate as a 21 year-old.  For all intents and purposes, he's a non-prospect at the moment.  On the other hand, the other three pitchers had moderate success at Low-A West Virginia.  All three are still in my top 20 prospect list, so I consider them far from busts.  In fact, comparing my list with Sickels list, all three would be ahead of where Grossman was at the conclusion of his second full season, albeit all three pitchers also played at a lower level than Grossman did in their comparable seasons.

Ultimately, I'm simply trying to point out the issue with giving up on Cain, Dodson, and Von Rosenberg prematurely.  At least give them one more year.  It did wonders for Robbie Grossman.


  1. on your word they get the benefit of doubt.

    mitt can i just join your blog? is there a way i can click in as opposed to writing in my or any name?

  2. The link to Sickels' ranking goes to the ranking published on Jan 3, 2011. I think you linked to the wrong ranking. Otherwise, nice piece.