Thursday, February 02, 2006

Victorino and Ruiz - Kindred Spirits

Baseball Prospectus has some nice things to say about Phillies youngsters OF Shane Victorino and C Carlos Ruiz:

In short, he finally put together the ability to handle the strike zone with a respectable amount of power. During his previous seasons he had occasionally shown decent plate discipline or a flash of power, but never both at the same time. Something fell into place last season and he was able to put up a .377 OBP at Scranton while still hitting 59 extra base hits.

Despite having been around long enough to be drafted twice in the Rule 5 draft, Victorino is only 25, so there is reason to be optimistic that the improvements seen last year are real. If so, he becomes a solid bat off the bench, something the Phillies lacked last year. His strength has always been his speed and his defense, so he is well-suited to the fourth outfielder role, and will likely be frequently used as a defensive substitute for Pat Burrell in the late innings.

Victorino will be the fourth outfielder for this ballclub in 2006. Is he a late bloomer who is now finallly ready to handle a significant big league role? Or is he a guy who was only able to put it all together in AAA after he had outgrown the competition thus making him the classic AAAA player? I tend to believe it is the former and not the latter - he may be old for a "prospect" and he may never be a starter in the outfield, but his success in AAA make him a decent bet to contribute off the big league bench in '06. In fact, I think he finishes the season with a higher OPS than Jason Michaels had in 2005 (the number to beat is .814).

His defense is usually lauded as his major strength, specifically his ability to work well with pitchers. He has a strong arm, although since his control is not as sharp, the arm strength is only partially put to good use. Offensively, he had a productive season in Scranton last year, though there is understandable concern that his advanced age may have given him a boost. Ruiz's most surprising skill should carry over, in that he is one of the fastest catchers in the game, finishing 5th in the International League in triples last year with 9.

His injury history is a concern. Ruiz spent a good deal of time last year dealing with a bad shoulder, and his desire to always block the plate on plays at home--even when it is not necessary--increases the chances of him getting hurt again. If he can demonstrate in spring training that he is healthy and can avoid being overwhelmed by major league pitching, he may very well join Victorino on the Phillies bench.

C Carlos Ruiz - my attempt to summarize what BP had to say

Pros: works well with pitchers, strong arm, above average speed for position, very productive in AAA - high average, very good plate discipline, and gap power potential

Cons: less than accurate throwing arm, overaged prospect in AAA, injury history, too stubborn to stop blocking the plate on every little play at home, lacks big league experience

Sal Fasano brings one thing to the table - power. He is by all accounts a bad defensive player (something teams put extra weight on for backup catchers) and comes with a .222 career BA and a .302 career OBP. I'd love to have a backup catcher named Salvatore Frank Fasano - I really, really would - but if the Phillies don't at least let Ruiz compete for a spot on the team in spring training, it will be a big mistake.


Anonymous Dick Richards said...

One of the things that stands out about Victorino's minor league stats is that it seems to have taken him 200-300 at-bats to adjust at every level. Once he gets past that, he's been terrific. Despite his good showing last September, I suspect that the Phils will need to be patient with him early in the season. he won't be helped by being sent to Scranton if he struggles early.

10:06 AM  
Blogger XXX said...

Very good point about Victorino's adjustment period at each level. It seems like the Phils have confidence enough in him to endure his potential early season struggles, but you never really know what this organization thinks about any one particular young player.

I'm not sure how bad Victorino will have to play before I would think a demotion is in order, but sending him down after a rough couple of weeks just seems like a very Phillies-like thing to do. Hopefully they are willing to give Victorino the time he needs to prosper at the big league level, but only time will tell.

1:36 PM  

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