Predicting the 2007 Mark Quinn Award

Earlier this winter "daveyork" posted a hilarious diary entitled "A Royals Fan Top Ten List for the Offseason". In his post he coined/created a new honor, the Mark Quinn/Andy Sisco Award. Here was his definition:

One player who fans have hope for in the upcoming season will horribly regress and live on only potential for the next season - The Mark Quinn/Andy Sisco award. Zack Greinke would also be a good candidate for 2006 award. Early odds on 2007 include Ryan Shealy and Esteban German.

Thus, a player like John Buck or Angel Berroa doesn't really apply. Nor does, at this point, Sweeney or Grudzielanek. Those players might fail, but their failures aren't quite what the brilliant career of Mark Quinn was supposed to represent. With that in mind, lets take a look at the early candidates for the Mark Quinn Award, which honors the position player who will "horribly regress" after building up our hopes, starting with dave's own predictions, Esteban German and Ryan Shealy.

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Esteban German: In 2006 German did everything for the Royals, playing six positions (as well as DHing) and, incredibly, batting in all nine lineup slots. Not just a LaRussian utility player in the extreme, German also hit, posting a .326/.422/.459 line complete with 5 triples and 3 home runs. Most impressively, he maintained a high level of performance despite being jerked around by Buddy Bell during the season's first half. Once he became a semi-regular player during the dog days, he maintained his superficially high batting average, but also kept taking his walks and increased his power, slugging .494 in the second half of the year.

Why Is He a Candidate for a Quinn?

Of course, it was his age-28 season, and he'd never done anything remotely like that before at the major league level. (Although you could also make the case that he'd never been given the chance.) The Royals have seen this before, once relishing of the delights of the flexible Desi Relaford, who hit .288/.341/.435 in the first half of 2003. The other immediate comparison might be to Junior Spivey, a polished minor-leaguer who gained a sterters job at 27, had his career year, and now seems like a bust. Still, theres a positive-side to that story, namely German's aforementioned polish. His minor league stats reveal a guy who's always taken his pitches, taken his walks, which bodes well as a value-sustainer. However the high batting average and triples power may fall off as the league adjusts to him. This is essentially what PECOTA sees, projecting a .285/.357/.383 line. Thats a useful player if handled right, but not the fringe All-Star the Royals enjoyed last season.

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Ryan Shealy: You know the story: Shealy was blocked by Todd Helton in Colorado and Dayton Moore freed him. Once in Kansas City, Shealy showed up and immediately started raking.

Why Is He a Candidate for a Quinn?

Only he didn't. Shealy hit .280/.338/.451, an OK but still substandard line for a firstbaseman in the American League. The much-maligned Mike Sweeney hit .300/.347/.517 in 2005 and most Royals fans reacted like he was Angel Berroa. Like German, Shealy's a fresh face, but he isn't young; last season was his age-26 season. On the bright side, scouts love him, he's cheap and he was adjusting to a new league, level and city last season, so maybe he's about to blossom into an offensive machine. Still, whats the upside here? According to PECOTA his 90% projection (better than 90% of all other simulations) is a good but not great .297/.365/.549 with 26 home runs. This tepid projection is mirrored by John Sickels, who sees a similar player, a guy who's putting up 1980s firstbasemen numbers in a more offensive age. Credit Moore for getting Shealy for a reasonable price, but there's a good chance Shealy won't put up near as many runs as Royals fans seem to expect in 2007.

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David DeJesus: DeJesus is a nice player with a broad range of skills: he's a good average guy, he can work a walk, he's got some pop and he's good in the field at an important position. He's also a good baserunner, as long as he doesn't try to steal bases. He's already played 349 games with the Royals, and owns a respectable career line of .292/.362/.434, a line that includes a nice chunk of "playing hurt" time.

Why Is He a Candidate For A Quinn?

As we touched on PECOTA Day a lingering fear is brewing that DeJesus has already peaked as a player, that he's settled into a nice performance level, but isn't getting better. Like Shealy and German, he's not as young as you might think, turning 27 last month. Nevertheless, heading into his Age 27 season, PECOTA sees a .290/.357/.424 season, which is to say a worse hitting performance than he managed in 2005 or 2006. Like Shealy, DeJesus might be suffering from an upside-deficiency, although in a more acute sense: his 90% projection is a batting average-driven .323/.392/.483 season, basically Johnny Damon's peak year of 2000. Thats damn useful, however unlikely. Worse still, the Royals don't seem to be sure where to play DeJesus, leaving the door open to a huge value-decrease should they play him in left.

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Breaking down the odds:

No one else seems to fit as a potential Quinn winner. The Royals have other young players, but guys like Gathright, Costa and Maier are too unproven to truly qualify. Remember, here's the Mark Quinn career path:

Mark Quinn Through the Years:

1999: .333/.385/.733, 6 HRs (64 PAs)
2000: .294/.342/.488, 20 HRs (535 PAs)
2001: .269/.298/.459, 17 HRs (465 PAs)
2002: .237/.301/.368, 2 HRs (81 PAs)

Quinn peaked at age 26 and played his last Major League game (to date) at age 28.

The Quinn Award is fairly subjective, because you have to take into account what the preseason buzz/hype/hope for the player is. This perception should be based in reality: remember, Quinn showed up and started hitting right away. He was young, he was cheap, and life was good. With that in mind, German has clearly had his peak year, but everyone seems to understand that. I'm not so sure that understanding exists for Shealy and DeJesus, from whom the world expects greater things (and David is one of my favorite players personally). To this end, German could win the award, but he's have to really hit poorly to do so, whereas DeJesus might have an OPS 120 points higher than German, but run away with the award.

Still, they aren't the favorites. At the moment, Shealy is really a centerpiece of the Dayton Moore regime, right there along with the Meche-for-55 million moment and the Gathright "I'm old school, you win with defense" trade. In the post-Minky, post-Sweeney era, Shealy seems a refreshing return to a good, old-fashioned gigantic first baseman who can HIT... except I'm still not sure he's actually that good. Unlike German and DeJesus, Shealy doesn't contribute much defensively, hurts roster flexibility and is slow as hell.

But, he ain't Jeremy Affeldt.

2007 Mark Quinn Award Preseason Odds

Shealy: 40%
German: 25%
DeJesus: 20%
No One, Everyone Plays Well: 15%

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