Jordan Hicks, Arturo Reyes, And The Evaluation Process




PERSPECTIVE. Like with most things in life, keeping perspective and understanding environments are two of the more important skills to have when evaluating minor leaguers. With the correct perspective we are able to stop personal biases and come at problems and evaluations with a clear outlook. It's a tough habit to get into and rarely in the baseball world are we given the chance to see how players at varying talent levels perform against tougher talent.


And that's why the Arizona Fall League is so important. Sure, it's the ultimate exercise of breaking down "small sample size theatre", but many of the characterizations of the league ring true from season to season.


The Arizona Fall League (AFL) gives us the chance to see and understand how talent translates. It also gives me a chance to use one of the oldest players and one of the youngest players in the AFL as a juxtaposition in an effort to explain the maturation process of prospects and how superior talent always rises to the top in the end. Stats be damned!

There is a danger in looking at stat lines alone when evaluating the successes and failures of minor leaguers. As you'll see below, both Jordan Hicks and Arturo Reyes had similar statistical turns in the AFL, but judging the success rate of each can only be done when you understand where each player was before the AFL and when they had their success in the AFL. What I'm trying to say is, sometimes stats only tell tales.


GETTING TO KNOW OUR PROSPECTS


THE ELDER STATESMAN: ARTURO REYES





It seems like the former rotation mate of Marco Gonzales at the University of Gonzaga has been around forever. the 26 year old and former 40th round pick entered the AFL having appeared in 106 games over five minor league seasons. He started 82 of those 106 appearances, as well, good for 482 innings pitched.


About mid way through the 2017 season, after dealing with some nagging injuries, Reyes was moved to the Memphis bullpen. He doesn't really have a pitch that would impress you, but he has a three pitch mix that is decidedly average to below-average, but command that allows his mix to play average.


He's "a guy", but a polished veteran with good command kind of "guy".



CREAM! GET THE MONEY: JORDAN HICKS


The 21 year old Hicks is, in the world of prospects, a Christmas toy that you wanted really bad, but had yet to play with so you didn't know exactly what you were getting when you unwrapped it. But then you started to play with it after you unwrapped it and it was way better than you ever thought it could be.


The former 3rd round pick sat out 2015 after being drafted because he was nursing an arm injury/fatigue. He started the 2016 season at Johnson City and it was there that something magical happened: he started throwing the ball 100+ MPH. It was at about the same time that his curveball, which showed signs of being above average in high school but wasn't exactly a standout pitch, started to show signs of being a dynamic, strike-um-out, wipe-um-out pitch.


He entered the AFL having played all of 2017 as a 20 year old. He had only started 31 games over 34 appearances. He had a grand total of 165.2 innings pitched under his belt. Also, he had never pitched out of the bullpen until the end of the 2017 when he was promoted to Palm Beach and in an effort to conserve innings. His stuff can be electric, but he often lacks command and the consistency of a more seasoned prospect.



WHAT TO KEY IN ON


With Reyes, you have a veteran. A command-first pitcher with college seasoning and inning upon inning of minor league experience as both a starter and a reliever.


With Hicks, you have a straight outta high school, relative newbie to the organization learning the art of pitching in a professional setting. While his repertoire can be dynamic, his overall lack of experience and command often shows.


AFL STATS

Arturo Reyes:

APPEARANCES INNINGS HITS ER HR ALLOWED SO BB ERA WHIP BA AGAINST

10 13 18 9 1 12 2 6.23 1.54 .340


Jordan Hicks:

APPEARANCES INNINGS HITS ER HR ALLOWED SO BB ERA WHIP BA AGAINST

9 15.2 20 11 2 16 6 6.32 1.66 .323


AT FIRST GLANCE, you are looking at two players who performed similarly, despite their clear differences from a profile standpoint. The good news is, there is plenty more to talk about than just a final stat line.


In a showcase league like the Arizona Fall League you can usually count on two things from the pitchers in that age vacuum. First, the older, more advanced pitchers usually get off to a good start. It usually takes the hitters in that league a couple of weeks to get their bats underneath them before they're back into the "full swing".


Second, the younger pitchers usually struggle at the onset. Now, the more talented younger pitchers usually recover and finish strong while the less talented prospects usually struggle throughout.


And that's why we are talking about Arturo Reyes and Jordan Hicks. Let's start with Arturo. He made 10 relief appearances, so we'll brake his AFL into two equal halves: his first 5 appearances and his last 5 appearances


Arturo Reyes:

First 5 Appearances:

Innings Hits ER HR Allowed SO BB ERA WHIP BA Against

7 8 3 0 6 0 3.86 1.14 .286

Last 5 Appearances:

Innings Hits ER HR Allowed SO BB ERA WHIP BA Against

6 10 6 1 6 2 9.00 2.00 .385


If you had the perspective that I provided earlier then none of this would surprise you. Reyes did exactly how a player of his skill level, age, and experience usually does in this league.. His performance does nothing for his stock and it changes nothing about how evaluators view him.


With Hicks, unfortunately, we cannot split his time in the AFL into perfect halves using appearances. So, what I've decided to do is call his first 5 appearances his first half and his last four appearances his second half. Hicks had pitched out of the pen until his last appearance. He started that one. That changed how his innings were trending and gives us a little better balance to work off of.


Jordan Hicks:

First 5 Appearances:

Innings Hits ER HR Allowed SO BB ERA WHIP BA Against

8.2 16 11 2 8 4 12.02 2.439 .410

Last 4 Appearances:

Innings Hits ER HR Allowed SO BB ERA WHIP BA Against

7 4 0 0 8 2 0.00 0.857 .167


Hicks proves his part of the evaluation stereotype correct just like Arturo did. I love it when it works out perfectly like that.


So, now we have the statistical information and the common practices of success and failure in the league to make a judgement about their time in Arizona. If the question is "who had the better AFL?", upon first look, the answer is "it's a wash". But if you dig a little bit, understand how the league works, and see the results then you'll see a glimpse of why Jordan Hicks is highly thought of and sought after (aside from his high 90's velocity and break-it-off curveball). On the flip side of that, you'll see why taking the immediate success of an older pitcher doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things.


Thanks For Reading!

Kyle Reis