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Royals Players and Prospects Comparables by the CAL System

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Looking at similarities based on the CAL System as created by Joseph Werner of Beyond the Box Score

Mike Carlson

As prospect enthusiasts go, they always want to know the ceiling, floor, or major league comparison for that prospect is. This is an almost impossible to answer question and is filled with variables, but there are systems out there that look at age, skill, and level similarities to provide a quantifiable comparable for a prospect. Not to say that these systems are perfect, but they are based off cold hard data.

One such system is the Comparison and Likeness (CAL) system created by Joseph Werner at our sister site Beyond the Box Score. More information about josh: he's the owner of ProspectDigesthis work has been featured on ESPN, and he's easily reachable on Twitter.

When I first read his post introducing the CAL system at BTBS, coincidentally it was about Mike Moustakas, I was intrigued by the process. I love projection and comparables systems. I'm a big believer in ZiPS, and I think PECOTA's five-year and similarity score index (so much that I wrote an article using it) is a great start to figuring out what a prospect may be given his similarity to other former prospects.

I reached out to Joseph/Joe/Joey on Twitter to see if he could provide me the CAL system results for Royals prospects. Not only was he very willing to give his information to me, but he did me one better and threw in a few current Royals pro bono (if you think that Royals prospect comps are "for the public good" as pro bono means...). What a swell guy.

Some of the information is still behind the scenes and if you have questions I'm sure Joe would be more than willing to answer them, but I'll let him explain his system better than I can.

What is CAL?

Before that question can be answered, let's take a look at what CAL isn't -- namely, a projection system in the traditional sense. CAL doesn't forecast an upcoming season -- or seasons -- like PECOTA or ZiPS or Oliver or any other groundbreaking well-known projection system.

So what exactly is CAL then? It's a player classification system whose singular goal is quite simple -- to provide a better context in which minor league numbers can be evaluated by finding closely related players. It's another piece to the analytical puzzle.

Taking James' original formula and reworking it with a litany of differently weighted statistics, CAL searches through the database for players of the same ilk. Each player starts out with 1000 points and subtractions are made for differences in age, level of competition, and, of course, position, among many others. (Some of the statistics used are: strikeout percentage, walk percentage, and homerun rates for pitchers, and plate discipline, Isolated Power, and Speed Score, which was developed by James himself).

Ideally, players with a score of 980 or higher represents a potentially strong correlation between skillsets and, again, a potentially similar development path. Outside of 980 points, skillsets begin to differ; obviously, so, the further away from that point. One player may have more speed or less power or play a different position.

Basically, at its root, CAL provides a list of players with similar skillsets and conclusions can be drawn from the evidence. If a player's top five CALs all flamed out in the minor leagues, well, there's enough evidence to suggest that the player may struggle as well. It is not definitive proof, but it allows one to make a more well-educated projection.

The database has been built using FanGraphs' minor league statistics, which means the history begins with 2006 season. This also brings me to another interesting point: it's not an expansive database; it extends just eight seasons. So as the data size continues to grow we'll have an even better understanding of CAL's potential as an analytical tool.

Now there are two things to note: The scores aren't based on a player's collective history, it's just one season at a time. For example, Player A's age-23 season matches up well with Player B's age-23 season. And the second is that until advanced minor league defensive data becomes available, CAL only focuses on a hitter's offensive ability. It simply uses a player's position as another filter.

Finally, each of the following examples depicts each player as if he is currently working through the minor leagues.

Is CAL a predictive tool for hitters?

Nothing is 100% definitive. However, I've run through numerous test cases that suggest that CAL can become -- and is -- a useful analytical tool for hitters. The system has shown the ability to root through a lot of the statistical mumbo-jumbo -- and all the unnecessary hype -- and sniff out some of the bigger prospect busts and surprises, including some late-blooming big leaguers as well.

Again, CAL provides the evidence to allow the user to make better educated guesses by looking at his contemporaries.

As with most similarity and projection systems we are missing a lot of real term data that could improve our systems, such as defensive data, but Joe has created a certainly admirable system. One thing I noticed with his results is that many of the comparables that CAL provided matched those that scouts or the baseball community have sourced.

Below are the CAL results for a handful of Royals current players and prospects. Joe has left notes by each player to further explain what CAL was likely thinking or what could cause a variation in the similarity.

So with the graces of Joe, and whether you like the results or not, here are the CAL system results for the players.

PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Christian Colon 21 A+ Eduardo Nunez
Eric Stamets
Hector Made
Shane Opitz
Edgar Duran
Didi Gregorius
960.27
936.00
927.73
926.87
926.00
925.47
This is the absolute perfect example of what I envision CAL to be:
littered throughout all of Colon's top comparisons are nothing
but fringe major leaguers and utility guys (Nunez, Getz, Barney,
Hernandez Sogard, Sanchez). And I think it's pretty safe to assume
that we're all in agreement -- with or without the use of CAL --
Colon slides directly into that group.

REMEMBER: CAL works by looking at the evidence it provides
and making educated decisions.
22 AA Chin-Lung Hu
Angel Sanchez
Jonathan Herrera
Ozzie Martinez
Rey Navarro
Didi Gregorius
947.20
945.07
938.93
926.73
922.07
907.07
23 AA Alberto Gonzalez
Eric Sogard
Chris Getz
Darwin Barney
Josh Horton
958.07
926.67
917.73
913.93
907.00
24 AAA Darwin Barney
Anderson Hernandez
Alberto Gonzalez
Niuman Romero
Chin-Lung Hu
928.53
925.93
921.92
912.47
909.80
25 AAA Angel Sanchez
Eric Sogard
Cole Figueroa
Luis Hernandez
Andres Blanco
917.93
917.73
916.47
890.20
889.53

PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Billy Butler 20 AA Logan Morrison
Mike Carp
Chris Marrero
Freddie Freeman
Kyle Blanks
869.67
858.00
856.20
855.93
854.00
Not only does this show proper prospect attrition rate, but look at
MLB'ers career wRC+: 103 Morrison, 113 Carp, 98 Wieters, and
129 Freeman. Ignoring this season, Butler's is 120.

Also something to point out, not one player on this list
ever topped 30 homeruns. Career ISO's: .172 Morrison, .154 Butler, .168 Carp, .166 Wieters, .183 Freeman
21 AAA Logan Morrison (2010)
Eric Duncan
Logan Morrison (2009)
Ji-Man Choi
Matt Wieters
858.53
855.07
819.20
817.67
801.60
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Yordano Ventura 20 A Andrew Bellatti
Dennis Neuman
Kyle Ginley
Carlos Vazquez
Francellis Montas
Jeremy Hellickson
957.10
926.90
924.90
920.90
919.00
915.00
A prime example of CAL's usefulness when it comes to pitchers:
This list is absolutely littered with quality (future) big league arms
(Montas, Hellickson, Zimmer, Archer, Cole, Paxton, Kennedy,
Odorizzi, Smyly, Wheeler).

It's important to note -- and I plan on discussing this in next
week's piece -- pitchers, especially big arms like Ventura, have
the potential to move quickly through systems, so that does impact
comparisons.
21 A+ Kyle Zimmer
Christian Friedrich
Jared Lansford
Chris Archer
Gerrit Cole
968.90
926.20
914.00
912.00
910.90
22 AA James Paxton
Ian Kennedy
Jake Odorizzi
Drew Smyly
Dan Smith
964.80
939.00
933.80
932.00
928.10
22 AAA Patrick Corbin
Will Startup
Zack Wheeler
Carlos Villanueva
Dana  Eveland
913.10
911.10
908.00
906.10
902.00
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Kyle Zimmer 21 A+ Yordano Ventura
Christian Friedrich
Jared Lansford
Nick Kingham
Chris Archer
Wade Davis
Gerrit Cole
968.90
908.90
896.90
895.80
894.90
893.90
893.80
Again, the list is littered with front-of-the-rotation-type arms:
Ventura, Archer, Cole.
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Raul Mondesi 17 A Elvis Andrus
Jose Vinicio
Andrew Velazquez
Dorssys Paulino
Delino Deshields
943.87
882.80
866.40
863.13
856.67
It's a pretty decent list, but not one player has an impact bat. I think
Andrus comp is pretty solid, personally.
18 A+ Jose Vinicio
Elvis Andrus
Chris Owings
Leury Garcia
Jonathan Villar
852.33
849.87
834.20
832.33
828.20
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Eric Hosmer 19 A Lars Anderson
Nick Delmonico
Aaron Hicks
Daryl Jones
Jon Singleton
934.27
914.60
912.00
899.87
889.67
Again, look at the patterns: Outside of Singleton (maybe), not
one player has developed that type of power projected for Hosmer.
Morrison (three times), Butler, Smoak, Barton, Rasmus, Belt.

Obviously, CAL wasn't too impressed by Hosmer's early work.
20 A+ Logan Morrison
Christian Yelich
Lars Anderson
Nick Evans
Ryan Wheeler
Joc Pederson
864.00
854.20
845.87
842.67
842.67
836.73
20 AA Oscar Taveras
Maikel Franco
Brandon Belt
Colby Rasmus
Billy Butler
853.67
789.80
777.33
774.00
767.40
21 AAA Daric Barton
Logan Morrison (2009)
Logan Morrison (2010)
Billy Butler
Justin Smoak
838.60
836.00
827.33
812.80
793.73
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Hunter Dozier 22 A+ Abel Nieves
Mike Costanzo
Karexon Sanchez
Niko Sanchez
Thomas Pham
Chase Headley
943.47
908.60
905.00
903.93
897.80
896.73
He was viewed as a reach in order to sign Manaea later, but
this is not an encouraging list. At. All.
22 AA Reid Engel
Marcos Vechionacci
Jarek Cunningham
Stephen King
Michael Mosby
917.53
910.87
886.13
866.40
862.00
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Bubba Starling 20 A Slade Heathcott
Justin Jacobs
Drew Vettleson
Joe Benson
Roman Pena
929.60
924.33
922.73
920.13
917.00
Toolsy outfielders who never really panned out. Not surprising.
21 A+ Thomas Pham
Michael Tayor (WAS)
Shaun Cumberland
Tim Battle
Wilkin Ramirez
948.80
932.20
931.27
927.27
923.33
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Wil Myers 19 A Jaff Decker
Byron Buxton
Josh Sale
John Drennen
Bryce Harper
928.27
888.20
887.80
883.87
872.27
Again, look at the patterns: Harper, Buxton, Heyward, Winker, Rasmus, McCutchen, Jackson, Stanton, Jones, Bruce, Rizzo. Above-average or better big league bats. No question.

His slow start to last season in AAA coupled with a smaller
sample size skewed CAL's opinion of him in 2013.
19 A+ Byron Buxton
Colby Rasmus
Nick Weglarz
Jesse Winker
Jason Heyward
856.60
854.73
843.20
838.07
831.80
20 AA Tyler Austin
Andrew Lambo
Robbie Grossman
John Drennen
Andrew McCutchen
Austin Jackson
902.67
880.67
879.27
873.07
870.80
870.80
21 AA Giancarlo Stanton
Travis Snider
Miguel Sano
Christian Yelich
Joe Benson
758.13
752.53
737.93
733.33
711.93
21 AAA Adam Jones
Jay Bruce (2007)
Anthony Rizzo
Christian Yelich
Jay Bruce (2008)
926.00
866.33
863.27
862.53
858.13
22 AAA Michael Saunders
Josh Reddick
Brandon Wood
Wladimir Balentin
Nick Weglarz
908.53
899.87
890.73
887.00
874.67
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Patrick Leonard 20 A Connor Narron
Daryl Jones
Mark Trumbo
Brandon Snyder
Jacob Kuebler
952.53
934.40
933.27
926.47
909.40
Threw him in here because of the inclusion of Myers trade.
Despite some impressive numbers this season, it's an unimpressive list.
21 A+ Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Dustin Geiger
Beau Mills
Jake Marisnick
Daryl Jones
929.27
921.87
915.13
898.67
894.73
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Miguel Almonte 20 A Christian Binford
Edgar Osuna
Tyler Herron
Dimaster Delgado
Wesley Parsons
946.20
944.90
942.10
939.00
939.00
It's a pretty uninspiring list, really, with the exception of Parsons,
Binford, and Ranuado. Conclusion: back end starting pitcher or
solid relief arm.
21 A+ Jon Barrett
Patrick Urckfitz
Bryan Shaw
Ryan Berry
Anthony Ranaudo
953.90
943.90
938.00
933.90
930.90
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Sal Perez 20 A+ Francisco Hernandez
Tomas Telis
Angel Solome
Alex Monsalve
Rossmel Perez
891.00
869.47
869.00
868.47
862.20
This one was shockingly off (nothing's perfect), though Salome
was once viewed as a top backstop prospect before eating himself
out of the league.

Ramos' career wRC+ is 108. Perez's career wRC+ is 108.
21 AA Wilson Ramos
Angel Salome
Christian Bethancourt
Carlos Paulino
931.67
887.80
886.73
879.47
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Alex Gordon 22 AA Pedro Alvarez
Mat Gamel
Jerry Sands
Domonic Brown
Ryan Braun
Chase Headley
Jedd Gyorko
890.73
887.67
885.73
884.60
877.67
873.33
872.00
It's a solid list of names. Look at the career wRC+:
105 Alvarez, 97 Brown, 147 Braun, 113 Headley, 110 Gordon.
Obviously, Braun is the outlier, but I only had one minor league
season to work off of (2006).
Jorge Bonifacio Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
19 A Andrew McCutchen
Lius Domoromo
Delta Cleary
Edward Salcedo
Jordan Schafer
948.33
932.47
923.87
908.13
907.13
The McCutchen, Myers and Gomez comps stand out, but there's
an awful lot of fourth outfielder-types mixed in. Bonifacio had that
hamate injury last year, which saps a player's power for a while.
I think he looks like a solid league average regular, though there
is some risk involved.
20 A+ Gorkys Hernandez
Moises Sierra
John Drennen
Ramon Flores
Marvin Lowrance
918.47
917.00
912.93
908.73
906.00
20 AA Wil Myers
Yorman Rodriguez
Tyler Austin
Andrew Lambo
Carlos Gomez
913.27
868.73
866.60
853.93
851.60
21 AA Raymond Fuentes
Xavier Avery
Gorkys Hernandez
Kaleb Cowart
Tyler Austin
942.27
925.87
924.33
923.20
898.80
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Sean Manaea 22 4 Tyler Thornburg
Billy Bullock
Jake Arrieta
Sam Demel
Tanner Roark
940.80
932.90
925.20
920.80
918.00
The vagaries of having just 80+ innings to work with. Some encouraging names mixed in though (Arrieta and Roark).
PLAYER Age Level Comparison CAL Notes:
Christian Binford 20 A Tyler Herron
Gregory Billo
Justin Nicolino
Wesley Parsons
Miguel Almonte
989.90
966.00
954.10
947.20
946.20
A lot of back-end-type arms with the exclusion of Odorizzi.
21 A+ Liam Hendricks
Joe Wieland
Edwin Escobar
James Parr
Daniel Herrera
Rafael Montero
Jake Odorizzi
907.00
904.00
903.00
897.00
888.90
887.00
886.90

Note - I asked Joe if there were certain things he wanted to stress about the CAL system and he had this to say:

1. CAL is designed to look at a player's total production, not specifics (like avg., OBP, slug, HR, etc...)
2. CAL is a player classification system. It's up to the analysis to make the educated analysis.

I won't analyze the data myself, but I'll leave that to you all in the comments. I can already guess what the Wil Myers comments will be... Interestingly I wrote about Jorge Bonifacio as Wil Myers last August as Bonifacio was performing well in AA and CAL produced that result.

Again, big thanks to Joe for giving us this information. He's in the beginning stages of introducing the CAL system, which you will likely find more of over at BTBS, and we graciously accept him allowing us in on the project. Hopefully his information guides you further along in the endless pursuit of baseball knowledge.

If you didn't do so the first time, go check out Joe's site ProspectDigest, and follow him on Twitter.