2Legit or Not2Legit? Kelly, Jones, Marte

== Who’s got the 2Legit  welcome mat on his front porch? ==

Esteemed sabermetricrian and Mariner expert SABRMatt has been pumping for infielder Ty Kelly to get some additional love.

And there’s a growing fanbase for center fielder James Jones.

I, myself, perhaps alone in the universe, have been noodling about the possibility of Ketel Marte leaping all the way from High-A at age-20.

Let’s go 2 the 2Legit Watch!

===

Kelly came over from the Orioles in exchange for Eric Thames last summer.  Thames had been designated for assignment to make room for one of the many reinstatements of Franklin Gutierrez from the 60-day disabled list.  Returns on players who have been DFA’d are not usually very spectacular, because the trading team is really just moving up in the pecking order of teams that can get the player.  In other words, Thames was coming off the Mariner roster anyway.  It was just a matter of who would get first dibs.

The O’s offered Kelly, a versatile switch-hitter, to get those first dibs.

Now I know that Matt likes to look at non-random outcomes just like I do, and he’s probably much more advanced at it, so I assume he’s run some numbers to back up his support for Kelly.  And maybe they are similar to these:

Year Age Lvl HR% BB% XBH + BB% ISO K% PSA+ Conv+ Comp
Age Arc Slugger > 4% Goal > 8.5% Goal > 19% Goal > .200 Goal < 20% Strong Prospect > 100
2009 20 “+1” 0.37% 12.18% 14.76% 0.045 10.70% 111 60 71
2010 21 “+1” 0.70% 11.91% 18.91% 0.111 14.19% 110 82 92
2011 22 “+2” 0.75% 12.55% 15.73% 0.054 11.80% 113 65 78
2012 23 “0” 1.95% 14.03% 21.49% 0.140 12.79% 136 96 132
2013 24 “+1” 0.67% 17.14% 22.86% 0.094 15.13% 141 80 121

You can see from the BB% and K% and PSA+ columns that Kelly has great “plate skills.”  He refuses to strike out and draws plentiful walks.  And he has just enough pop to survive, though his career ISO is under .100.

Why would I not give a more full-throated endorsement of Kelly?

1) I’ve found that the high-walk, low-ISO combination doesn’t translate to the majors.  In fact, it’s virtually impossible to find an MLB hitter with a walk rate above 11% and HR-rate under 2%.  So despite the Spectometer love in that first column of red, I wouldn’t expect him to have that kind of MLB impact with the bat.  Those 17% BB-rates aren’t gonna happen.

2) He’s only played one game at SS in his minor league career.  Maybe the Orioles are different, but usually if a guy’s capable of playing short, he’ll get at least a trial run there.  So I doubt Kelly’s ability to be a utility guy who can backup all the infield positions.  True, there’s probably reason to doubt Willie Bloomquist‘s ability to do that too, but he has, at least, done it before.

640px-Stop_sign_graffiti_Hammertime_in_Denton,_TexasVerdict: Legit, but not 2Legit

===

Jones was a two-way player at LIU-Brooklyn, which frequently makes its only sports headline of the year around this time by briefly sneaking into the field of March Madness (it’s done it six times and is 0-6).

So he does have the extenuating circumstances of low-mid-major college competition and not focusing full time on hitting as an amateur.

Jones has done a very good job of reviving a career that once looked stalled-out after a tepid age-22 season at High-A High Desert.  He managed to improve the next year, and, at AA Jackson in 2013, outshine peers Leon Landry and Francisco Martinez in direct competition.

Here’s his chart:

Year Age Lvl HR% BB% XBH + BB% ISO K% PSA+ Conv+ Comp
Age Arc Slugger > 4% Goal > 8.5% Goal > 19% Goal > .200 Goal < 20% Strong Prospect > 100
2009 20 “+1” 1.61% 10.22% 19.35% 0.152 21.51% 85 83 69
2010 21 “+1” 2.14% 11.07% 19.29% 0.163 21.79% 91 84 75
2011 22 “+1” 1.45% 12.21% 19.48% 0.131 26.74% 79 62 41
2012 23 “+2” 2.50% 9.66% 19.32% 0.191 22.18% 85 92 77
2013 24 “+2” 1.42% 9.95% 17.54% 0.143 17.54% 91 84 75

There’s much to like about Jones, and, as noted, there are reasons for being old for his levels.  But to reach age-24 and only barely make AAA (4 games) means he’s up against pretty long odds.

And as a left-handed bat, it’s not clear what Jones brings that fellow LH-hitting OF Xavier Avery doesn’t (and Avery is younger and has a full season of AAA experience).

640px-Stop_sign_graffiti_Hammertime_in_Denton,_TexasVerdict: Not 2Legit Yet

===

Marte is just 20, and hasn’t played an inning above High-A.  Nor is he even in the major-league camp.  So why even contemplate him at this point?

  • The Brad MillerNick Franklin runner-up will be too valuable to remain in a supporting role for long, if at all.
  • Bloomquist shouldn’t really be the backup shortstop.
  • Carlos Triunfel had his shot, is flashy but inconsistent on defense, and (since his broken ankle) doesn’t bring speed as a bench player.
  • Chris Taylor is on track to be the every-day shortstop at AAA, and that’s where he should be.

So why contemplate Marte?

  • He brings the glove, and that’s what he would be there for.
  • There’s no need for Marte to follow a typical development arc so that his bat can realize it’s upside — his bat has no upside.  He’s going to put the ball in play and hope for the best.  His OBP will approximate his BABIP.  He can do that now.
  • He’s already been pushed (Clinton at 18; High Desert at 19) because of the glove.  The team loves the glove.

Do I think it will happen?  No.  But eventually.

640px-Stop_sign_graffiti_Hammertime_in_Denton,_TexasVerdict: 2Legit as a glove-first shortstop

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One thought on “2Legit or Not2Legit? Kelly, Jones, Marte

  1. If Jones has such an electric arm (Stories of him “throwing a home run” on a line, flat footed) why did they decide to focus on him as a position player and not a pitcher? Did they let him choose? If he continues to stall… why not throw him in the Everett (or wherever) bullpen and see if you can’t harness that high 90s heat and teach him a splitter or something and make him the next JJ Putz???

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