Could this be Gumbs and Odor in a few years? - Ronald Martinez
Craig Goldstein takes a closer look at two second base prospects at opposite ends of the tools/polish spectrum and how that affects their fantasy outlook
After a week-long hiatus to investigate the death of the minor league first baseman as a species, we're back on track with the prospect comparison. Today's piece features two prospects with substantially different profiles that may have landed closer than you think on our Consensus Fantasy Prospect Rankings. On the one hand we have Odor, a polished 18 year old who played in full season ball and was consistently highlighted despite playing on a squad known for it's depth in talent. On the other hand we have the 19 year old Gumbs, a tools-laden prospect, who was a bit overshadowed by the star power on his own team. Let's get into the specifics of what exactly makes these players the prospects they are.
Rougned, owner of a fantastic handle and nephew to Cleveland Indians minor league hitting instructor Rouglas Odor, was signed for $425,000 out of Venezuela in January of 2011 and made his debut later that year as a 17 year old in short season ball. The Rangers aggressively promoted Odor to full-season ball in 2012, and he was no worse the wear for it, recording a .259/.313/.400 slash line. While this line might not make your eyes sparkle with thoughts of what could be, keep in mind that Odor was routinely facing playing 2-3 years his senior. Production isn't everything in the minor leagues, and it is important to factor age versus level into the equation. Sure, Matt Skole might have set Lo-A on fire, but I'd rather bank on the guy who hit .260 because he's 5 years younger. Back to this comparison though. Odor has a phenomenal feel for contact, ringing up a K% of only 13.8 despite the age to level disparity. His BB% came in at 5.3 and while that's not ideal, it is in line for someone with his contact-oriented approach and reasonable given his low K%. If he was striking out a lot and not walking - then we'd be concerned. Despite a high energy, polished approach, one area of his game that could use some work is the running game. Someone with his speed shouldn't be caught 10 times in 29 chances.
Odor surprised with the amount of pop he showed in his full season debut, as 10 homers was not expected out of someone with his frame. While he doesn't project to hit for much power due to his frame (5'11/170 lbs), Odor has quick wrists and generates backspin on the ball, allowing him to shoot the gaps and occasionally poke it over the fence. Odor's tools play up because of his feel for the game and his intelligence, but they also shouldn't be diminished as though he's some scrappy guy who will be lucky to be the 25th guy on the roster. Odor has at least average grades all around, including a plus to plus-plus hit tool, and his make up allows him to get the most out of everything he's got in his toolbox. Despite signing at shortstop, and spending some time there this season, Odor profiles best as a second baseman. He has the arm for either positions, but his range plays better on the right side of the infield.
Odor could be a nice role player on a defender, they type who always makes their presence felt at the right moments. He has a great floor due to his heady, all out style of play and polished skillset. I'd expect the Rangers to continue to challenge him with a push to Hi-A this season, though he'd still be one of the younger players in Lo-A.
That brings us to Angelo Gumbs, the other player in this two man act. Gumbs is a little bit of everything that Odor isn't. While Odor appears to be a coaches dream, Gumbs, while competitive, has been known to let a bad at-bat linger and affect his play. Gumbs did produce the better overall slash line between the two, registering a .272/.320/.432 line at Lo-A Charleston, though his season was shortened when he suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow that did not require surgery. So while he produced only 3 fewer home runs in about 180 fewer at bats, Gumbs' age and lost development time is working against him in a direct comparison to Odor. That development time is sorely needed, as Gumbs saw regression in his BB% from 2011 to 2012, going from 9.1 to 6.5. On the upside, he did reduce his K% from a staggering 25.9 to a more-palatable-but-still-too-high 21.6.
Gumbs has premium bat speed, giving him a chance at solid power down the line. He mitigates that bat speed by having a lot of excess motion in his current set up including a bat waggle. If Gumbs can learn to quiet his mechanics at the plate, it could allow him to sit on pitches longer and take advantage of his bat speed. Gumbs was a shortstop/outfielder when he was drafted by the Yankees, but his athleticism has allowed him to make a relatively smooth transition to second base. He's not a quality defender there just yet, but he's shown gradual improvement, that is expected to continue. His arm more than qualifies for the keystone, and his speed and athletic build should enable him to have plus range in due time. That brings us to another key aspect for Gumbs - speed. In only 67 games, he racked up 26 stolen bases, getting caught only 3 times in the process, putting him on pace for 54 stolen bases over the course of a 140-game minor league season. With average pop and that kind of speed, it's not hard to imagine how Gumbs could quickly become an asset to fantasy owners.
It's likely the Yankees promote Gumbs to Hi-A next year despite the injury shortened season at Lo-A Charleston. Most of his teammates received a mid-season promotion to Tampa last year, and I think the Yankees would prefer to keep that talent together if at all possible. At 20 years old he will be young for the level though, and the Yankees can afford to take their time with him if they so choose. I wouldn't schedule him in as a level per year guy just yet, as the Yankees do reward players with in-season promotions. That said, it's difficult to decipher when Gumbs might arrive in the Bronx given his delayed development pattern, but obvious talent. If it all clicks he could be there by late 2014 though I think mid-to-late 2015 is more of a realistic goal.
Comparing the two players discussed above, it's easy to like Gumbs obvious tools and slightly better production at the same level. While it's necessary to give credit to Odor given his relatively similar production at a younger age, it's also important for fantasy owners to realize that it's only a one year difference, and that Gumbs was young for the level himself. Age versus level is often an extremely important guide for valuation of prospects, but in this situation, if you value one clearly over the other - I wouldn't let their respective ages shape your opinion. It's a helpful tiebreaker of sorts, but both these players are young, talented and offer fairly diverse skills. Odor has a higher floor for me, while I think Gumbs has a slightly higher ceiling, with a lot more work going into it. I'd be more excited to own Gumbs, but would feel more comfortable owning Odor. How you decide depends on your capacity for risk.
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