Sunday, January 08, 2006

How Good Is Brandon Watson?

A common sentiment among the writers covering the Nationals is the prospect of Brandon Watson playin CF and leading off for the Nats in 2006. Back in September, I ranked Watson as my #1 hitting prospect from the New Orleans Zephyrs. I said:
The 23 year old finished 355/400/419 in 88 games in New Orleans. His appearance at #1 is more a function of the fact that the Nationals lack major league prospects at the Triple-A level. I have written about Watson before. His 355 BA was buoyed almost entirely by singles (113/132 hits) and he does not draw a large number of walks (28BB in 372AB). He also needs to become more selective stealing bases as 31/44 is not the greatest SB %. If Watson can continue to hit the ball on the ground, learn to take a walk and use his speed, I believe he has the ability to be a serviceable leadoff hitting CF.
The one think I neglected to mention was how hitting in the Pacific Coast League artificially inflated his numbers. Thanks to a posting over as John Sickels' Minor League Ball (a great site for anyone interested in intelligent discussions of anything minors), I can now compare Watson to the average player in the PCL. Average PCL player (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS): 278/350/442/792 Brandon Watson: 355/400/419/819 While Watson's OPS is an impressive 819, it is only 3.5% higher than the average player in the PCL. Additionally, you need to take into account the park factors of New Orleans (from 2003-2005): R: 0.83; H: 0.96; 2B: 1.15; HR: 0.69; BB: 1.04; K: 1.21 While New Orleans is a relatively neutral park for overall hitting, the difficulty in hitting HRs makes it most certainly a singles/doubles park. This shows me that much of the initial value of Watson's statistics are, in a large part, league and park influenced. Therefore, any direct correlation between inflated AAA numbers and expecations of major league success need to be tempered. UPDATE: I referred to the latest edition of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (TBF). TBF lists Major League Equivalents (MLEs) in order to reflect how a player's previous performance might look in the majors. MLEs normalize the variances introduced by park/league factors. Watson's 2005 stat line with the Zephyrs would look like this in the majors: AB: 518 R: 61 H: 141 2B: 15 3B: 2 HR: 1 RBI: 23 BB: 26 K: 43 SB: 28 CS: 21 BA: 272 OBP: 307 SLG: 313 OPS: 620 Needless to say, the value of his AAA numbers are definitely diminished when you attempt to extrapolate it to major league equivalents. His lack of BB is pronounced with an OBP of 307, not exactly what you would be looking for out of a leadoff hitter (think more an OBP of 350). Additionally, the speed he brings comes at a cost, 28/49 in SB attempts means he is running the team out of a potential run 43% of the time. All this being said, Watson is worth a look in the spring but thoughts of Endy Chavez v2.0 may not be that far out of line. Let's hope he learns better than Endy did.


GoTerp said...

Well, maybe that also explains whay the Nats were not so high on Short beacuse he played in the PCL for NO.

JammingEcono said...

Great post Brian. Glad to see somebody delve into the numbers to see just how much the PCL affected Watson's stat line.

El Gran Color Naranja said...

I blame this whole think on Juan Pierre's 2003 postseason. The whole thing was moving nice and slowly toward getting high OBP guys at the top of the lineup and he set the whole thing back 3-5 years.

His complete lack of power worries me. .419 was his best slugging percentage on any minor league level. If he was a slapper and groundball beater-outer, I wonder also how many of those hits wouldn't be hits in the majors because of better overall fielding play?

Anonymous said...

The whole thing was moving nice and slowly toward getting high OBP guys at the top of the lineup and he set the whole thing back 3-5 years.

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