Monday, November 29, 2004

Trader Jim Knows No Holiday

It wasn't quite the gravy-induced stupor that I feared, but Bowden made another trade, sending Antonio Sucre to the Pirates for JJ Davis.

Sucre, who I assume is not the 19th Century South American General/Simon Bolivar confidante, is a 21-year old who has not yet escaped A-ball. Last year, he hit .240/ .327/ .353 in his first full season at that level. He's described as raw and toolsy, but full of potential. At this point, there's probably more coal than there is diamond.

This is what Baseball America has to say about Davis:
Davis, 26, was the eighth overall pick in 1997 out of a California high school but never could crack the Pittsburgh lineup. He totaled 80 big league at-bats over the last three seasons, hitting .162/.236/.212 with one homer and seven RBIs...
[H]e has posted career totals of .262/.329/.483 with 112 homers and 391 RBIs in 668 games [in the minor leagues]. Davis has obvious tools, starting with plus power, speed and arm strength. But he's an undisciplined hacker who struggles against breaking balls, and he can look awkward in right field. Davis is having a strong winter in the Mexican Pacific League—he's hitting .270/.343/.629 with nine homers and 16 RBIs in 23 games—and will compete for a reserve role in Washington next year.

Overall it's a pretty neutral move. If he stays on the Major League roster, he'll be a decent 5th outfielder. If they're relying on him for anything more than that, the team might be in trouble. Being only 26, he still has a little room for growth--and if all the roses bloom right--no, I'm not holding my breath--he could be Guillen insurance.

Davis obviously has much more short-term potential than Sucre does. And given the pretty crappy start to Sucre's career, the few Major League ABs Davis gets this year and next, might make it a better long-term deal as well.


  • Chris is so prolific that this is pretty far down the queue, but I have a slightly more optimistic take on the acquisition of Davis. The key, though, is that Davis needs some real AB to see if he'll ever be a decent player, and with the OF so crowded already I'm not sure where he gets it.

    Davis's career minor league numbers are less impressive than his more recent totals -- he struggled for many years before finally putting together back-to-back good seasons in AA in 2002 and AAA in 2003. Then he suffered from injuries in 2004 and was jerked around by Pittsburgh, ending up with only 83 AAA AB, and 25 major league AB. He strikes out a lot, and the rumor is that he can't hit breaking stuff, but Sickels liked him ok going into last year, giving him a B-:

    "He's always had good tools, but has made progress the last two years turning them into skills. He's cut his strikeout rate, increased his power production, learned how to use his speed on the bases, and has shown a much better attitude. ... I think he may have a few adjustment issues, at least at the beginning. His swing is still long sometimes, and he's never going to be a walk machine or a .300 hitter. But if the Pirates are patient with him, he should turn out to be a good player, though I don't think he's going to be a star."

    Not a ringing endorsement, but a cautiously positive assessment.

    More enthusiastically, Baseball Prospectus 2004 called him the Pirates OF prospect with the highest upside, and a darkhorse candidate for NL Rookie of the Year last year. His comparables list going into last year included Wes Helms, Andres Galarraga, and Joe Carter in the top five (along with less positive example Ozzie Timmons), although the comparability scores weren't particularly high. I'm surprised Jose Guillen doesn't show up... I guess his body type is pretty different, but their strengths and weaknesses -- and history of getting jerked around by the Pirates -- are similar.

    Unfortunately, his 2004 didn't do anything to build on his two previous years, making those positive, upside predictions look pretty bad:

    2002 (AA Altoona): .287/.351/.526, with 20 HR, 17 2B, 3 3B, and a BB:K of 33:101 in 348 AB.
    2003 (AAA Nashville): .284/.342/.554, with 26 HR, 29 2B, 4 3B, and a BB:K of 35:84 in 426 AB. And 26-6 SB-CS.
    2004 (AAA Nashville): .253/.273/.639, with 8 HR, 6 2B, 1 3B and a BB:K of 3:27 in 85 AB.

    He may have been trying too hard to get back after his injury (a lingering strained hip flexor) in 2004 -- he showed his strength -- great power -- but his weakness came back in force -- terrible plate discipline.

    His awful major league line was compiled over 80 AB scattered across three seasons from 2002-2004. It looks very, very ugly, but it doesn't actually mean anything.

    Nonetheless, the potential and upside is still there, despite the Pirates' frustration. Davis's Mexican League numbers have improved since the BA overview:

    .307/.385/.663, with 10 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, with a BB:K of 14:25 in 101 AB, and three stolen bases without getting caught. To these uneducated, stats-only eyes, the decent BB:K seems like a particularly good sign.

    To me, he seems like a guy worth taking a chance on. But he needs playing time to develop and gain consistency against major league pitching, if he can. I can't find lefty-rightly splits at the moment (I'm sure they're out there, but I'm too lazy to go look them up after compiling all this other stuff when I should be working), but he's a righty, so perhaps a platoon with Sledge while also spelling Johnson at first occasionally and situationally pinch hitting will get him into a decent groove. Of course, the one place the Nationals are set is with average OF prospects -- Ryan Church will also be in the hunt for playing time. Hopefully they'll deal Endy Chavez away to a team desperate for a proven CF (Philadelphia, I hear you a-calling) and open up some space for these guys, although none is really a true CF, and certainly not Davis

    This year (and next, probably) should be about seeing who can be a useful player for the 2-4 year window that will (fingers crossed) coincide with the opening of the (theoretical) new stadium. A power-hitting OF who is 26 years old now would fit that window nicely -- right around his peak.

    By Blogger Randolph, at 11/29/2004 10:45 PM  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 10/21/2009 10:36 PM  

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