Jan
05

Is Zach McAllister a prospect worth holding on to?

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At The Hardball Times, Harry Pavlidis writes an article titled, “Pitching prospects who might be keepers.” With that title, it’s tough not to read. Harry examines minor league players using four criteria: strikeout rate, walk rate, groundball rate, and home runs per fly ball + line drive. Since those represent four important pitching skills, you might imagine that Harry’s analysis spits out the very best in minor league arms. Alas, this does not appear to be the case.

To get the most contextual look at each pitcher, Harry weighs each stat against the pitcher’s league average. This way he can compare someone pitching in AAA to someone pitching in A ball — or, just as important, comparing someone pitching in the International League to someone pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He puts everything on a scale of 100, like OPS+ and ERA+, so you can see how far each pitcher ranks above league average in each category.

Among the 29 names on Pavlidis’s list sits Zach McAllister, the 22-year-old sinkerballer who figures to start the season in AAA. Despite the label, however, McAllister didn’t induce many more groundballs than a league average Eastern League pitcher. That means more fly balls and line drives than other sinkerballers, but this is where McAllister registers well above league average. He keeps balls in the park on hits in the air, no small accomplishment. He also ranks well above league average in walks.

While McAllister does have some impressive numbers, his inclusion on this list does not necessarily mean he’ll find success in the big leagues. Of the 29 on Pavlidis’s list, 13 have seen major league action and none have overly impressed. Lenny DiNardo stands out. His walk rate ranks well above league average, but in the majors he walked way, way too many hitters. His just above average strikeout rate translated into well below league average in the majors, and even his home run to fly ball plus line drive ratio dipped.

Still, given McAllisters numbers, both in this analysis and in more general analyses, the Yanks could get use out of him in the back of the rotation. He’s not the kind of pitcher who will win a job during Spring Training — not with the Yankees, at least. But if the team faces an injury or two, he could certainly get his chance in the rotation. Perhaps his skills in throwing strikes and keeping fly balls in the park will translate into major league success. At this point, I think that’s a better gamble than trading him in for a major league spare part with much less potential future value.

Categories : Minors

50 Comments»

  1. So he’s officially the new IPK in trade scenarios, right?

  2. pat says:

    I’m with you Joe. I’d hold onto the kid and hope he can tweak that slider into a true strikeout pitch. If he does that he would become a very good prospect. He’s mad young, has a great frame and is a strike throwing machine, I wouldn’t trade that for a mlb bench player. Not yet, at least.

  3. Tank the Frank says:

    Is Zach McAllister a prospect worth holding on to?

    YEEEEAAAH!! what? YEAAAAAAAAAH!!!

  4. Ed says:

    Just out of curiosity, what would an evaluation of Wang in January 2005 look like?

  5. Kyle Drabek’s career numbers:

    267.0 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, 8.1 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 7.6 K/9, 2.35 K/BB

    Zach McAllister’s career numbers:

    378 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 3.34 K/BB

    Just sayin’.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Interesting. I did not know that.

    • Evilest Empire says:

      So…what’s the catch? What makes Drabek the centerpiece of a Roy Halladay trade and Z-Mac just another guy?

      Is it better pure “stuff”? Is Drabek facing hitters more above his age group? There has to be SOMETHING that distinguishes Drabek.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        I think Drabek has better “stuff.” Mid 90′s fastball and such. McAllister sits low 90′s but I’m a believer that he’ll add velocity with his size.

        • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

          Why would he add more velocity with his size? He’s already filled out at 6’5 230 lbs. There’s not a lot more he’ll likely be able to add to that frame.

          I don’t know much about the physiology of pitching, but I don’t often hear of guys with developed frames suddenly adding velocity. I dunno, I’d bet he’ll probably stay around the low 90s as he ages.

          • Tank the Frank says:

            Oh, well I wasn’t sure if he had filled out all the way yet. I was more or less repeating what I read in Mike’s prospect profile. It said there’s a chance he could add a tick as he fills out. But if that’s already happened then perhaps he has topped out velocity-wise.

            • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

              Totally possible. I just don’t know of many guys that can jump from 6’5 230 lbs. another twenty pounds comfortably, particularly if his lower half is already very developed.

              Hope you’re right.

          • emac2 says:

            Because he has filled out so much AND recently. He had a huge growth spurt the year before last.

            I think it was 4-6 inches and 40 pounds or something close.

            Enough that you would expect he would add to his stuff once he adjusted.

      • I’m not sure, really. I haven’t looked up any scouting reports, I just went on numbers. They were, however, both draft in ’06.

        Age 18: Both in the GCL
        Age 19: Drabek A Ball, Z-Mac A-SS
        Age 20: Drabek A-SS, R, Z-Mac A, A+
        Age 21: Drabek A+, AA, Z-Mac, AA

        • Fun Fact:

          Both Drabek and McAllister were born December 8, 1987. Meaning that not only was Z-Mac putting up better numbers at higher levels of the minors with a more rapid progression, but there’s no “but he’s older” justification reason.

          They’re practically Bobsey Twins… except for the fact that Z-Mac’s 6 inches taller and 30 pounds bigger.

          Downhill plane FTW.

          • Evilest Empire says:

            So. Same age. Drafted same year. But Z-Mac has pitched 111 more innings, an ERA 9/10ths of a point lower, and superior peripherals including an impressive WHIP.

            But Drabek is the guy who gets you Doc Halladay.

            Me = still confused

        • Evilest Empire says:

          That’s interesting. So they:

          1. Were drafted in the same year
          2. Are the same age
          3. Have faced similar or equal levels of competition their entire pro careers

          While I think there is still *something* in Drabek that separates from Z-Mac (and most other prospects), that’s a really intriguing -and seemingly fair – comparison you’ve made. And honestly, I have no clue. I don’t follow the minors very closely on paper, let alone watch many games. I just go by what RAB, Keith Law, and occassionally the MSM, tells me for the most part.

          I’ve always been excited about McAllister and have paid attention to his development. Cheers to him.

    • pat says:

      I think Drabeck’s ceiling is a wee bit higher as he can crank it up to the upper to mid 90′s. Zmac pretty much tops out at 94 ish. Plus Drabeck is coming off TJ.

  6. Dan Novick says:

    Joe:

    It’s Harry Pavlidis, not Harvy.

  7. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    He keeps balls in the park on hits in the air, no small accomplishment. He also ranks well above league average in walks.

    how does one do that, exactly?

  8. SM says:

    Does HR% on flyballs increase when moving from the minors to the MLE?

    • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

      Hitters in the majors are more likely to have developed power, so they’ll hit more flyballs for home runs.

  9. Doug says:

    Serious question: is keeping fly balls in the park a true skill or is it more a matter of luck?

    • Stryker says:

      wouldn’t that also be on the part of the people playing behind you as well? there’s a big difference having an outfielder who can track and get to a fly ball and make a play on it compared to a guy who’s absolutely awful in the field.

      • emac2 says:

        Uh – Unless you are referring to a consecoesque headbump over the wall the players behind you don’t effect the flight of a home run ball.

  10. chriso says:

    I wonder if all these new statistical measurements are really providing us with useful information. I mean, they’re useful in terms of discussion, but they may not have as much bearing on what actually does, and does not, happen out on the field as we might think. There are so many factors that can’t be statistically accounted for (or which would just be too cumbersome a task to measure) that can have a significant impact, like the number of outstanding defensive plays made behind a pitcher in any one season (how can you even measure “outstanding?” such things are in the eyes of the beholder) or the number of times a batter faces an inexperienced pitcher (given the “conventional wisdom” which holds that an inexperienced pitcher is likely to make more mistakes on the mound and give even lesser batters a chance to shine. After all, wasn’t hitting a double off of an in-his-prime Randy Johnson a much tougher feat than hitting a double off of Jonathan Albaladejo?)

  11. pete says:

    Zach Mack reminds me of Jon Garland. I kind of expect him to be a very similar pitcher.

  12. Business Suit says:

    Zach will never be more than a number 5. All this comparing to Drabek is silly, a prospect’s ceiling is determined not by numbers but by scouting. That the numbers don’t match up is not damning to the scouting reports but could be a result of a number of factors, including Drabek’s surgery or simply differing development curves. Drabek was the Phillies top pitching prospect and is significantly more valuable than Z-Mack due to his ceiling.

    You think Zach’s numbers are good? Look at Shelley Duncan’s.

    • Yages says:

      You had me until you suggested comparing Shelley’s numbers to ZMac’s. This is, to use your word, silly.

    • RollingWave says:

      Shelly Duncan was a player who was old for his level and didn’t really start mashing until he was a old player in AAA. he also had a pretty noticable whiff problem in the minors which is always a red flag.

      A better comparason would be … say… Miguel Cabrera , who basically hit like Melky Cabrera for his first 3 years state side. so why is one hitting like… well Miguel and one’s still hitting like Melky?

      with that said, one has to acknowledge that pitching prospects are far more of a crap shoot than positional onces, they’re far more suspect to injuries (pitching prospects ruined by injury happens at a MUCH higher rate than postional onces) and they’re much harder to judge for a large variety or reasons.

      Stephan Strasburgh is the best pitching prospect right now, and probably the best in quiet a while, but if I bet that he’s not going to have the best career of every pitcher currently in the minor right now, I will probably win, because that’s the nature of pitching prospects.

      Is Drabek a better prospect than Z-Mach? sure, is he going to have a better major league career? I’d say the odds aren’t exactly as different as you’d think.

  13. TarHeelYankee says:

    Talking about young pitchers……… Why the hell isn’t Cash all over this Chapman kid ??????? We just traded our third ranked pitcher in the Atlanta trade, why not sign this kid who will be ready to help by mid-season or the beginning of next season at the latest. If someone knows something about this kid that I have not read please tell me. I just don’t understand.

    • Eric @ THTGB says:

      Chapman, most likely, will not see the majors this upcoming season. He has a very good arm (as everyone knows), but most reports about him say that he’s not mentally ready to throw in the majors. He’s very comparable to Stephen Strasburg, but with a much smaller frame and throws left handed.

      It’s an awful lot of money to throw at someone who won’t contribute right away. The Yankees don’t need to risk that kind of money with the current state of their starting rotation. I wouldn’t, however, count the Yankees out on this one at all. If Cashman does view Chapman as a future big time pitcher, then he may swoop in and sign him. As we’ve seen this off season though, it would have to be on Cashman and the Yankees terms though.

  14. Eric @ THTGB says:

    McAllister caught my eye this season in the DOTF updates with his ability to consistently go out there and get people out. I never really checked his season totals, but a 2.23 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 22 starts is pretty impressive. That is only in AA, but for a 21 year old that’s still pretty darn good. He may not have electric stuff, but if he can continue to mature and keep his WHIP down, then I think he’s definitely worth holding on to as a future number three or four starter.

  15. Mason says:

    I dont get why everyone is making such a big deal about pure ‘stuff’. In my opinion, numbers (for the most part) don’t lie. If a guy has been successful with numbers like McAllister over his 4 year stint in the minors, what else does he have to do to be considered a top prospect? ‘well he doesn’t have as good of “stuff”..’ His so called..’stuff’.. is obviously good enough to sport a career 378 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 3.34 K/BB line as a starter in 4 years in the minors at almost all levels.(thank Matt Imbrogno for the stats). Pitchers don’t have to have a mid 90′s fastball or amazing curve-ball to be great. Heck, a guy could throw a 89 mph fastball and be amazing as long as he hits his spot and changes speeds. Just look at Greg Maddux. I just think the whole ‘stuff’ thing is overrated. McAllister is a very good pitcher and I believe he has the control and makeup to be a very reliable successful pitcher at the big league level. call me crazy, but I would take him over Drabek everytime.

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