Reconsidering Carlos Peguero

Carlos Peguero homers in front of a dedicated Seattle crowd at "Dress like an empty seat" day at Safeco Field.

Updated 5 July: Carlos Peguero has been promoted from Tacoma and in lieu right now of a detailed post about what to expect, who he is, etc that Jeff is probably working on this second, I'm going to bump a post I wrote last month concerning Peguero. I wrote it about 100 PAs into his Tacoma season. He's doubled his sample size since then to a little over 200, but the numbers presented below (except where indicated) still stand.

My conclusion remains the same. Carlos Peguero is better this year than last, but not by enough. Not nearly by enough. I really hope he plugs in at DH and reduces playing time to Miguel Olivo most of all. And I'll shed a metaphorical tear for Luis Jimenez.

We Mariner fans got a detailed and too long 155-PA look at Carlos Peguro's talents last season. In case you missed that or are otherwise infatuated with breakdowns, I decided to detail how I viewed Carlos' skill set over that period using the 20-80 scouting scale.

Hit for Contact: 20. Of 405 hitters with 150 or more plate appearances in 2011, Carlos Peguero's contact rate of 64% ranked 404th.
Hit for Power (ISO): 60. Peguero's .175 ISO ranked 116th, which is good, but nothing special. He's been better in the minors for sure, but Minor League stats don't count in the majors.
Plate Discipline (O-Swing%): 20. Carlos Peguero ranked dead last with the highest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone swung at.
Arm Strength: 55
Arm Accuracy: 40
Fielding: 35. It's hard to isolate Peguero's contributions against fly balls since he assumed a starting job almost exactly the same time as Franklin Gutierrez returned. Peguero also took over for Milton Bradley who was piss poor in the field himself. The numbers are based on small samples and lean in different ways. Visually however, Peguero took horrendous routes and wasn't secure with his catches.
Baserunning (speed score): 40. Though Peguero was 8-for-8 in steal attempts with Tacoma last season, he was 7-for-16 the year before that and is 31-for-56 (55%) over his Minor League career. He does have a fair amount of triples though and isn't horrendous at taking extra bases.

That package did and does not constitute a quality Major League player. It might not even make up a replacement-level Major League player. Peguero mercifully returned to Tacoma and hit well there and now has gotten off to a blistering start this year in Triple-A. What's more important than the surface-level triple slash numbers however, is if there's any improvement seen in those skills above.

The fielding I cannot speak to, having not yet made it down I-5 to a game, but I asked the always gracious Mike Curto and Mike thought that Carlos is showing some improvement. So perhaps raise the arm and fielding grades above a tick or two. As far as the hitting goes, let's see how Peguero's done so far in his limited time.

We don't have pitch F/X data for the minors so more robust measurements like O-Swing% have to take a backseat to cruder, but not useless, metrics. Peguero is swinging slightly less often so far. He's down from 56% last year to 52% (now 54%) this year. That's still quite high, but improvement is improvement.

Of course, it's not improvement if he's still swinging at balls as often, but that does not seem to be the case. It can't be flat out measured, but by looking at how often Peguero takes a called strike (21% (now 22%) compared to 27% previously), we can get an estimate and there we see some real improvement from Peguero. What that hints at, but doesn't prove, is that Peguero is laying off more often at balls and swinging more or as often at strikes. That's a step in the right direction. Step one of like sixteen, but still.

Peguro's contact rate in Tacoma this year stands at 67% (now 68%). That's really, really, bad. It's actually worse than his marks last year in Triple-A so I'm doubtful that's made any progress at hitting for contact. Hitting for power, on the other hand, might have taken a step up. I do not think that Carlos Peguero is going to continue running a ~.400 isolated slugging. That would make him the Barry Bonds of the PCL or something. 100 trips to the plate shouldn't cause you to radically re-evaluate anything, but better numbers are better numbers. We like to see better rather than worse, or the same.

On the whole, what we have is Curto's informed opinion that Peguero is getting better at defense, some roundabout evidence that Peguero's pitch selection is better and some concrete evidence that he can put a lot of damage into a ball when he makes contact, which he's doing as infrequently as he used to. So Carlos Peguero now is probably better than the Carlos Peguero of 2011 was.

However, Peguero didn't need to just get better; he needed and needs to get a lot better. He's on a path to reach that level if he continues improving, but I don't see him as there yet. I think he warrants an extended stay in Tacoma for this season with perhaps a post-Tacoma-season September call-up.

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