Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Monday, June 04, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part I: Jeremy Slayden 

In honor of the MLB draft being held this Thursday on ESPN2, I thought that I might direct a little specific attention to the Phillies minor leaguers, players who will be making an impact on the team in the future. In the case of the players I’ll be talking about – Jeremy Slayden, Jason Donald and Adrian Cardenas – whatever impact they have on the Phillies won’t be felt until 2009 or 2010. The players the Phillies select Thursday, meanwhile, won’t have an impact on the team until 2010 or 2011 at least. But the seeds for future success are laid at the draft. We’ll talk a little more about that tomorrow, but today we start with Jeremy Slayden.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

Jeremy Slayden was the Phillies eighth round pick in the 2005 Draft and the 247 th player, overall, to go. The Kentucky-born Georgia Tech Outfielder had previously been drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2001 (in the 20th round) and by the Oakland A’s in 2004 (in the 18th round). Slayden signed with the Phillies and reported to Batavia to play with the Muckdogs, the Phillies short-season Single-A affiliate at the time. The interest the A’s had in Slayden is not at all surprising in that he seemed on paper to be someone whom the A’s would find fit their governing philosophy – reliance on On-Base Percentage and the ability to slug the ball as opposed to speed and pure athletic ability. (See, pages 14-42 of Moneyball: "... we're not selling jeans here.") In his 2005 season at Georgia Tech, Slayden’s OBP was one hundred point higher than his batting average, and thirteen of his seventy hits were home runs.

Slayden went to Batavia in the late summer of 2005 and hit strongly, clubbing nine home runs in just 229 plate appearances. Slayden’s Isolated Power (ISO) was an impressive .196. Slayden’s slugging percentage was seventeenth in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), just two spots down from Mike Costanzo, the much ballyhooed second-round (but first overall) selection the Phillies had made in the draft. Costanzo had a terrific story – local boy drafted by the local team – but Slayden quietly put up better stats to Costanzo in Batavia:

Costanzo: .278
Slayden: .283

Costanzo got to skip Single-A ball and jump into Advance Single-A in Clearwater with the Threshers. Not Slayden. Slayden climbed the next rung in the ladder, joining the Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws in 2006.

On a team that lacked much offense and playing in one of the most pitching-friendly parks in the South Atlantic League (SAL), Slayden finished second in the SAL in slugging percentage at .517. He clubbed ten home runs and forty-four doubles at Lakewood, helping to spark the Blue Claws to the 2006 SAL title. Instead of a quick promotion as a reward for such a stunning season to Reading to join Costanzo, Slayden was jumped to Clearwater this season.

Playing on a team that plays in a pitching-dominated league, the Florida State League (FSL), Slayden continues to hit well. Despite playing in another park friendly to pitchers (Clearwater’s Bright House Networks Field ranks seventh of twelve FSL parks in terms of ease in hitting home runs), he is fourteenth in slugging percentage, at .461. Impressively, he has cultivated an ability to draw walks this season, raising his walks from .122 walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) in 2005 to .091 at Lakewood to .171 in Clearwater. His .414 OBP ranks him fifth in the FSL. Slayden’s .302 GPA this season is much better than the .267 that Costanzo hit in 2006. Slayden’s abilities got him named to the 2007 FSL All-Star Game (like Costanzo in 2006).

Slayden does have some speed – being a combined ten for ten in stolen bases in Lakewood and Clearwater is either a display of luck or some skill – but he is clearly a masher. He’s a walks-and-home runs (and sub-par defense) kind of player in the mold of the pre-2004 Oakland A’s. (Recently the A’s have emphasized fielding and speed a little more in their personnel decisions.) This is the kind of player than Billy Beane builds teams around.

Not surprisingly, scouts have been slow to appreciate Slayden’s skills, if they do at all. Top Prospect Alert doesn’t rank Slayden in their pre-season Top Ten or even their mid-season Top Ten. Baseball America pretty much dismisses Slayden’s pro prospects all together. Gregory Golson, an inconsistent hitting speedster who plays in the outfield with Slayden, is rated at a Top Ten prospect by both publications. Golson is an athlete scouts see as having tools and potential. Slayden is all-wrong as a ballplayer, although the stats back him up. The Phillies, seemingly one of the more sabremetric-friendly franchises in baseball, don’t particularly seem to be interested in Slayden’s development either. While Costanzo seems poised to make a run on the Phillies roster in 2008, Slayden seems fated to spending 2008 in Reading and then 2009 in Allentown. If he even gets a chance at playing outfield for the Phillies, Jeremy Slayden will have to wait until 2010 at the earliest.

Tomorrow we’ll talk a little about the 2007 MLB Draft, but I want people to keep players like Jeremy Slayden in mind. Guys like Slayden are unheralded and ignored by scouts, but they perform time-and-again on the field and deserve attention as great ball players. My prediction is that Jeremy Slayden will have a better baseball career than Mike Costanzo. Let’s see if it happens …


Based on his minor league record to date, Mike Costanzo will never even be a big leaguer.
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