T Rob Trade Breakdown Part 1 - FedEx

 

Tim Federowicz the key piece in the Trayvon Robinson trade has gone by FedEx since middle school. No sense in changing it now. I have numerous sites and scouting reports I’ve found about him, so I will share what I feel are the best and most reputable of those with you. Then offer my opinion, and please feel free to offer yours, you know you want to!

According to Ned Colletti he made this trade because:

We needed catching.

He also described his farm system as:

Deep in pitching, calling the Double A staff well above average, and adding that the system was lean in position players and “ultra lean” in catchers.

So what do you do? You trade a kid who you drafted at the age of 17, out of your own backyard Crenshaw High School, who came up through the MLB RBI program (Rebuilding Baseball in Inner-cities), who’s last name is Robinson and who has broken out this year to the tune of  .293 Batting Average, .375 On-Base Percentage, .563 Slugging Percentage with 26 homers in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. At the very least he’s a quality3rd or 4th outfielder for 5+ years and a great story, for a franchise that needs all of the good PR they can get right now.

On the other hand maybe Robinson was peaking this year in the hitter friendly league and Ned was being shrewd by striking while the iron is hot. According to Ned (via the good folks at True Blue LA)

Colletti acknowledged that Robinson was behind Dee Gordon and Jerry Sands among position player prospects in the Dodgers system.

Ned’s is no doubt basing this on Trayvon’s alarming rate of striking out in 29% of his plate appearances, and this little nugget I found on True Blue LA as well, from user “Dodgerblue8188″:

In the age where stats are such an important factor. Do you guys think that the organization has more in-depth stats (maybe even available to people like us) that show how a player does against certain types of pitchers?

For example, they look at Trayvon Robinson and how he has done against minor league pitchers with an ERA under 4. The result is a batting average around .250 and only 4 home runs. But then you look at how he does with pitchers with an ERA over 4.50 and he’s batting over .300 with 20+ home runs?

Just thought about that and was wondering. Obviously when we all look at stats we dont’ see how well they do against certain players. We just see the whole picture which could be misleading especially in that league.

So let’s say for argument’s sake that Ned tried to sell high with T-Rob, that Robinson’s numbers weren’t as good as they looked on paper. Ok maybe, but if so why are most if not all of the Internet Baseball Prospect Guru’s, like Keith Law at ESPN saying this kind of stuff about the trade:

The Dodgers get … I’m not really sure what they get. Tim Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn’t likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34-percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors.

Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in their pockets, this doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, as they didn’t get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange.

I found several other sites that offered similar analysis on the Dodgers end of the deal. Fortunately Mike over at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has done a lot of the leg work and quoted the guys I was going to quote so I will give all credit to him. Plus, as usual MSTI has an excellent perspective on the whole situation:

It’s no question that most Dodger fans don’t like the trade, but we’re not a fair sample. We’re biased. We loved Robinson, none of us had heard of the three Boston guys before yesterday, and we don’t trust Colletti. What’s really informative is looking outside our little sphere of Dodger fandom, and seeing what the feeling is on the other side of the trade and from the national writers who don’t cheer for either team. If the trade is getting positive reviews from those groups, then maybe we need to shift our way of thinking.

Not today, however, because just about every smart person who writes about baseball is completely confused about what the Dodgers are trying to do. Red Sox & Mariner writers are thrilled. Prospect writers are blown away. Just about everyone is united in killing the Dodgers over this.

Here’s a sample of some of those perspectives. First is Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus:

I spent 15 minutes after this trade waiting to hear which players I’m missing. The Dodgers took a perfectly good Top-11 prospect, a player who is having a great year at Triple-A and easily projects as an everyday outfielder, and received three pieces of fringe in return. You’d almost think Frank McCourt was running the team.

Jeff Passan at Yahoo:

The Dodgers gave up their top hitting prospect, Trayvon Robinson, an outfielder with pop and plate discipline, to get into the three-way deal and land catcher Tim Federowicz and two arms. As is the case with everything Dodger-related this year, they are losers.

Evan Brunell at CBS Sports:

There was only one trade made in which a team was instantly ridiculed for its move. The Cardinals were headed for the loser’s seat before the waning minutes of the deadline, but Los Angeles took it away with a staggering display of incompetence. The Dodgers agreed to trade away Trayvon Robinson, one of the few bright spots in the high minors that could actually hit. Instead, Robinson will take his .293/.375/.563 line with 26 home runs in Triple-A to Seattle while the Dodgers come away with three organizational pieces.

And really, that’s all they are. You’ve got catcher Tim Federowicz, who has a strong defensive reputation but whose hitting will be challenged enough that he best profiles as a long-term backup catcher. Those aren’t tough to find.

And on and on it went, over and over again, I can’t remember the last time I saw writers views on a trade so unilaterally in absolute disgust over the deal. However this isn’t an attempt to rip open the wound that Ned Colletti inflicted upon Dodgers fans when he again pulled off a head scratching deal. Jay Jaffe at Baseball Prospectus sums it up in a way I never could:

What the… excuse me… whiskey tango foxtrot? A deal sending a good prospect such as Robinson in one direction and a possible stretch-run helper such as Bedard in the other is the stuff deadline deals are made of, but what business did the Dodgers have for throwing their good prospect into this deal in order to enable somebody else’s stretch run acquisition without something to make it especially worth their while?

The GM managed to make the situation worse by trading down in a deal he had no business butting into, punting away a future everyday player. But it ranks among the most shockingly inept deals of the year. In a five-and-a-half year tenure that’s seen its good moments—three playoff appearances, including back-to-back trips to the NLCS—and bad ones (the Jason Schmidt contract, the Andruw Jones contract, the Juan Pierre and Uribe contract, the Blake trade…), Colletti may have set a new low. That’s saying something.

Okay I think we have provided enough material to show that baseball writers aren’t exactly giving Ned a pat on the back. Yet as I said before Trayvon isn’t without a few faults of his own. In fact our FanSided Minor League site, Seedlings to Stars recently published an article about Trayvon. In it Nathaniel Stoltz makes a pretty compelling case as to Why We Shouldn’t Get That Excited About Trayvon Robinson, and his post came out several weeks prior to the trade.

Stoltz admits that T Rob is one of his favorite sleeper prospects but he also points out some legitimate concerns about the 23 year old Mariner outfielder. The entire article is available here, but there are some excellent conclusions backed up by statistical data.

Robinson’s tearing the ball up in Triple-A this year, and seems like he’s just waiting the call to LA , yet, I find myself in the weird position of suddenly being pessimistic about his potential impact. What made Robinson so attractive in the first place was his broad-based set of skills. A 10th-rounder way back in 2005, he didn’t do much until 2009, when he hit .306/.375/.500 with 15 homers and 43 steals in 117 High-A games. (He also struck out 143 times in 136 games)

He rose up prospect lists with a 2010 campaign in Double-A, batting .300/.404/.438. He only hit nine homers, but made up for it with 73 walks and 38 steals. (125 strike outs in 120 games)

This year’s .299/.377/.561 line in Triple-A superficially appears to be a continuation and consolidation of Robinson’s progress in those previous seasons, but a deeper look reveals a number of worrisome trends.

The most glaring of those is that his baserunning exploits have greatly diminished, as Robinson has only attempted twelve steals and converted eight. That’s not entirely surprising, given that he’s bulked up recently and is now listed at 5’10″ and 200 pounds–not a traditional basestealing build.

The 23-year-old’s more muscular physique has allowed him to hit more homers on the season, which is already easily a career best for him. If the power spike is for real, then the trade of speed and defense for power would make a good deal of sense.

Unfortunately, it’s tough to trust the power spike, for a few reasons. The first is that Robinson plays in the hitter-friendly PCL, and we saw how average his power was in the generally neutral Southern League last season. His ultimate destination of Dodger Stadium is a fairly neutral environment as well, so he’s not going to keep getting that park boost, although he doesn’t have a pronounced home/road split.

In 2009, he hit 29 doubles, 11 triples, and 17 home runs. Last season, he hit 23 doubles, five triples, and nine homers. This year, the homers have spiked to 21, but Robinson’s managed just nine doubles and five triples.

It’s certainly probable that Robinson’s gained some power in the past season, but there’s not a lot to suggest that he’s really a 30-HR guy in the big leagues anywhere but perhaps Colorado.

And that’s a problem, because yet another issue has popped up with Robinson this year–his strikeouts have shot up, as he’s whiffed 122 times in 100 games, the highest rate of his career. He’s got an acceptable amount of walks–38–but the strikeouts are enough of an issue that he’ll need to make substantial improvements to hit for much of an average.

So what we’re left with is not the player we thought Robinson was. It looked like he would be a .265/.345/.425 player with good speed and defense in center field, but instead, we might be getting a .240/.320/.440 hitter with average speed and defense in left field. That basically cuts his value in half.

There’s still time for Robinson to recover, as he’s shown lots of positives since 2009. But don’t just look at the gaudy homer total and triple-slash line and pencil him in as a future above-average starter.

However the point of the article is to find something out there about FedEx, the guy Ned Colletti seriously coveted, even though he may very well be the same kind of player as AJ Ellis. Ellis is a solid defensive, doubles hitting catcher who has been sentenced to AAA for the majority of the season while Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro have struggled to hit above .200. And it’s not like either of them are outstanding defensively.

As for FedEx there’s some great analysis by Mike Andrews at SoxProspects.com. Here is his most recent recap of FedEx:

Scouting Report: Intelligent catcher with ideal frame and strong core. Line drive hitter. Average power potential as swing is on the flat side. Profiles as a gap-to-gap doubles hitter. Makes best contact on balls down and out over the plate. At times struggles to get his hands above the baseball on higher velocity elevated fastballs. Good pitch recognition skills, but can chase hard breaking balls off the plate. Improving plate discipline. Behind the dish, Federowicz presently is above-average defensively. Plus, accurate arm with a fluid release. Can struggle with his grip when throwing, which causes ball to tail into runners during stretches. Outstanding instincts and reflexes. Excels at staying square to the ball with both his body and glove. Fluid footwork, especially when blocking pitches in the dirt. Improving with game management skills and taking charge of the pitching staff. Below-average speed, but heady on the base paths. Projects as a major league backup catcher, with potential as a second division starter.

His ceiling to me seems to be another Russell Martin/Paul LoDuca type and the Dodgers would be thrilled if that’s what they ended up getting out of him. I remain cautiously optimistic about FedEx. I can certainly tolerate a .260 doubles hitter if he’s a witch behind the dish, calls a great game and knows how to handle a staff. He only has 1 passed ball ALL year so far, which is less than Dioner Navarro had in the span of about 5 pitches the other night in Milwaukee.

I also found an article on ESPN, also by Mike Andrews from April of 2010 talking about the catchers in the Red Sox farm system. Particularly they focused on FedEx and Ryan Lavarnway. Many Dodgers fans hoped they would have acquired Lavarnway who is a hit first catcher who has a lot of work to do behind the dish defensively. He was recently promoted to the Red Sox. The article has some fascinating quotes from Lavarnway about FedEx. The two are close friends and were drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds respectively in the draft.

Red Sox bullpen coach Gary Tuck said in spring of 2010 that the Red Sox have the best collection of catching he has seen in his 35 years, and specifically mentioned FedEx and Lavarnway. You can read the full article here but there are a few points about FedEx that should excite Dodgers fans and lessen some of the pain of the whole T Rob trade.

Lavarnway had this to say about the Dodgers new catcher:

“I think Tim’s great, he’s a great guy, a good clubhouse guy. …

I can learn a lot from him in terms of catching because he does a lot of things very well back there. I think that I’m better for him being around. I don’t think there’s a better catcher than him in the minor leagues, and having him around definitely raises the standards for me.”

Did you catch that Dodgers fans. Yes this is coming from his close friend and teammate but the fact that a very talented prospect who plays his same position, thinks he’s the best catcher in the minors has to make Dodgers fans somewhat excited.

He also made quite an impression on the Red Sox front office who had the following to say about him:

“Fed is a little quicker behind the plate with a very good release, ability to run the pitching staff, and call games,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. “With Fed, we’re just working on the finer points of his blocking and receiving skills.”

At 21, Federowicz also demonstrated some offensive proficiency in 2009, hitting .345 with a .955 OPS and 10 home runs in 55 games with low-A Greenville. Promoted to high-A Salem in late June, he initially struggled, hitting just .194 in his first 26 games, but adjusted to the Carolina League enough to hit .319 in the season’s final 25 contests. Ultimately, while he led the Red Sox system with a combined .305 average for the season (players with 250 or more at-bats), he’ll need to focus on staying consistent at the plate.

“As a catcher, I need to be the captain on the field, so one of the things I really want to work on — and it actually may be one of my weaknesses — is being more vocal throughout the games,” he said. “I also need to continue to work on being a guy that can handle a full season of baseball, someone who can be relied on every day.”

Federowicz, called “FedEx” by his teammates, is also concentrating on forging relationships with his batterymates.

“You have to kind of get into their heads, find out what kind of pitcher they are, and what they want to accomplish each outing,” he explained. “I try and figure out what they want to throw, so we’ll talk between innings. The biggest thing is to be able to build that relationship, to know what they want to get out of their outings, and to establish what I want to get out of them.”

In 2010 he would go on to lead the entire Red Sox minor league organization with 34 doubles, and so far he’s hitting for power and average in the hitter friendly PCL, just like Trayvon Robinson did.

There are a ton of prospect lists all over the internet, from all kinds of different sources. The majority of these lists are put together by guys who have read scouting reports about the players but who most likely have seen very few, if any of them play in person. The point to take out of all of this is just because some list says FedEx isn’t one of the Red Sox top 20 prospects, or another list says his ceiling  is a solid backup, doesn’t mean that those guys are right or know what they are talking about.

Prospect evaluation is an inexact science. Go back and look at the top prospects lists for the past few years. Pedro Alvarez and Colby Rasmus are good examples. They are young and still have a lot of time to develop but so far they have not been the “can’t miss” pros that all of the “experts” on all of these prospects lists said they were.

Let’s all take a deep breath. Are we happy about this trade? No of course not, but let’s turn our energy into focusing on the positives of the new catcher the Dodgers just obtained, rather than try to define what his career will be at just 23 years old, without a single Major League at-bat. I can’t stand when a so-called expert does his prospect rankings and without having seen a guy play in person is willing to label what kind of career a guy is going to have.

You cannot definitively say at such a young age what a player will turn out to be. Where was Mike Piazza on all of the “experts” prospects lists before he burst on the scene. For that matter go back and look at the top prospects from 2001 and see how many of these guys even had Albert Pujols ranked, let alone in their top 10.

We have no idea what kind of career FedEx will have, he has some valuable major league ready tools, and Dodgers fans have to hope that he continues to develop in other areas that he may not be as strong in. Let’s give the guy a chance to do this before we write him off as nothing more than a solid backup, because we’re pissed off that Ned Colletti traded Trayvon Robinson. I’d like to watch him have 500 at-bats in the big leagues before I’m ready to assess his offensive skills, then I’d like to see 500 more.

The point is we may look back in 5 years and say wow I can’t believe we got this guy and I can’t believe Trayvon Robinson turned out to be nothing more than Billy Ashley. Remember how good he was supposed to be and how many homers he was going to hit for the Dodgers?

I hope for Trayvon’s sake he goes on to have a great career, he is a great story, from a tough background and I hope we add him to the list of guys like Paul Konerko who we lament over losing. But right now there is just as good of a chance that FedEx will have just as productive of a career that Trayvon Robinson does. We don’t know, and we won’t know the answer to that question for years.

At the very least let’s look forward to that fact that FedEx should be starting behind the dish for the Dodgers for the next decade, and that Dodgers fans won’t have to watch someone like Dioner Navarro again next season.

Tags: ESPN Keith Law Los Angeles Dodgers MLB Trade Deadline Ned Colletti Paul LoDuca Russell Martin Ryan Lavarnway Tim Federowicz Trayvon Robinson

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