Today I wanted to look at the some of the biggest drops from last years Top 40 prospects list and try to figure out what happened and if there were any reasons to see it coming.
Coming into the season Junior Arias was ranked 12th and coming off of a season where he hit .287/.336/.482 for the Arizona League Reds. Arias has some tools, particularly with the bat. He moved from shortstop to third base in 2011, which may have had a little bit to do with his drop off in production as he was attempting to concentrate more on his defense at a new home. However, by looking at the stats, we can see two larger reasons for the fall in production. His average on balls in play dropped from .379 to .343 while coinciding with his already high strikeout rate of 27.4% jumping to 30.5%. Both the high BABIP and high strikeout rate should have been warning signs that there was a chance for a step backward. I noted in the 2011 Prospect Guide that his plate discipline was a concern and while his strikeout-to-walk ratio did improve rather significantly, it still remained well below average despite the improvements. There are reasons to expect a rebound though. There were improvements made with his plate discipline in 2011 and if similar improvements can be made in 2012, Arias will move himself into an average range. His power also took a step forward. The strikeout rate remains the largest concern moving forward.
Ismael Guillon was rated as the 13th best prospect coming into the 2011 season after a strong season with the Arizona League Reds. He had 73 strikeouts and 23 walks in 57 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.32 as an 18 year old. However in 2011 he moved up to Billings and saw his ERA balloon to 6.57 with 46 walks and 61 strikeouts in 63 innings. The two biggest issues were his home runs allowed going from 1 to 11 and his walk rate going up nearly 50%. Statistically, there was nothing to suggest this was coming. His control was a little below average in 2010, but it dropped off considerably in 2011. Clearly, there were struggles for Guillon with his control that really led to most of his issues (more home runs allowed, more walks and fewer strikeouts). There are some reasons that a rebound could happen though. Through his first 10 starts of the season, Guillon had 37 walks and 37 strikeouts in 40 innings (that is an 18% rate for each stat) to go along with an ERA of 7.65. In his next (and final) 5 starts the lefty had just 9 walks and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings (9% walk rate and a 23.3% strikeout rate) to go along with a 4.70 ERA. The improved control was a big step forward. He has the stuff to be successful when he can throw strikes. If he can hone in the control he showed over the final third of his season, he should be able to return to a strong prospect.
Cody Puckett came into the 2011 season ranked as the 23rd best prospect in the system. He hit .282/.353/.497 in 2010, showing off strong power but had some plate discipline issues with 45 walks and 125 strikeouts. While he did spend time on the disabled list in 2011 with a fractured wrist, his season was struggling before the injury occurred as he was hitting just .247 with 23 walks and 61 strikeouts in 267 plate appearances. In 2011, his walk rate dropped off slightly, but his strikeout rate also dropped off some. His power remained strong, even with the wrist injury. Perhaps the largest reason his production saw some decline was his batting average on balls in play dropping from .343 in 2010 to .276 in 2011. His rate stats were all pretty similar from one year to the next, so there is a reason to believe his production could improve for 2012 if he stays on the same path he has been on over the last two seasons.