Last but not least, let's check out corner outfielders. Charted below are the consensus top corner OF prospects.
- Travis Snider didn't quite qualify, but was horrendous (-28) in 2007. His minor league plus major league TZ have him at -8 in 106 games last year. CHONE projects he'll be -10 this season.
Jason Heyward is a beast in every facet of the game. The scouting reports say he needs to read the ball of the bat a little better and improve his routes, but according to TZ, he was superb in the field last season.
Matt LaPorta improved after moving from right field to left after being traded to Cleveland (+4). Even so, he was a first baseman in college and will be a first baseman in the majors.
Jose Tabata was moved to center field after being traded to the Pirates, and it looks like he has the range for it, but with Andrew McCutchen around, right field is probably where he'll stick.
- Daryl Jones has the speed for center field but an arm for left. He played wide receiver in high school and even turned down some college scholarships to play pro baseball. He looked like a classic tools bust until he underwent LASIK eye surgery during the winter before last season. Since the surgery, Jones has hit .316/.407/.483 in A+/AA. LASIK may have also helped him see the ball better in the outfield; he was -24 through '05-'07, + 15 at both levels combined in '08.
- Scouts knock Kellen Kulbacki's defense, likely because he's sort of slow and doesn't appear to hustle. TZ on the contrary says he was rather awesome.
Caleb Gindl is the all-out type, but he has to be with his limited set of tools. The extra hustle may have helped him post some pretty strong defensive numbers, despite below-average speed.
- Cody Johnson was the Braves' first round pick in 2006 and looks like a rather one-dimensional prospect. He can't field or run and he strikes out one out of every three trips to the plate.
Unlike infielders, the numbers for corner outfielders actually translate a little worse from one season to the next. Chone explains:
For corner outfielders, it appears that the quality of fielding, by looking at players who move up in levels, is lower as you move up in level, with major leaguers being the worst!
This was a bit hard for me to believe. There are some reasons that it could be possible—players lose speed relatively quickly, and outfield range is highly dependent on speed. Also, the lower levels of the minors use the DH in every game, which probably cuts down on the Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell types in minor league outfields. Another thing to consider is that players like Dunn were not the same lumbering plodders in the minors. At age 21, he was likely a good bit lighter on the scale and faster in the field. Major league outfielders, especially at the corners, are selected more for their bats than their gloves, and while having a lot of bulk muscle helps you hit for power, it does not help you chase down fly balls.
Hopefully you all enjoyed this series.We all know that with any fielding metric, particularly with a quasi play-by-play metric, there is room for error. TZ is definitely a huge step up from anything else we have for minor leaguers, or at least since Dan Fox's SFR was being published. (Curse you, Pittsburgh Pirates for poaching one of my favorite baseball bloggers! The nerve.)
I'd personally be more likely to accept Keith Law, Baseball America and other prospect watcher's opinions about a player's ability to field first, particularly when they all agree, but this is another nice tool to have in the toolbox when it pertains to evaluating prospects. On the contrary, if I got conflicting reports, I'd seek these numbers out next, particularly when there is more than a season or two's worth of data handy.