Ain’t too Prado to Beg

In yesterday’s Jair Jurrjens warning shot, I took a not-entirely fair shot at Braves utility man Martin Prado, describing him as “maybe-just-maybe league average.” This comment attracted a reasonable amount of attention as Martin Prado is, well, he’s pretty good.

That doesn’t mean I advocate rushing out to acquire him as part of a Jurrjens package. No, sir. If anything, there are just as many red flags for Prado as the Braves right-hander.

Martin Prado had a serious down year in 2011. After posting 3+ and 4+ fWAR in 2009 and 2010 respectively, he slumped to a mere 1.5 fWAR. His offense was way, way down. His .296 wOBA represents the lowest of his career, dragged down by a BABIP 50 points lower than his career number.

So, that’s it, right? His BABIP will rebound and his good as gold? If only.

Martin Prado is something of a bad ball hitter. At least that is the direction in which he trends. Prado swings at an increasing number of pitches out of the zone, from 20% in 2009 to 28% in 2011. Opposing pitchers are more than happy to oblige in this endeavour, throwing more and more pitches out of the zone for him to tackle.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

Just as the number of pitches outside the zone increased, so did the number of offerings he saw there. Year by year it looks like this: 54.1 %, 53.5%, 49.6%, 47.9%. Swinging at bad pitches is a great way to get fewer hits, is it not?

Shrinking right along with the number of strikes Prado sees is his walk rate. From a high of 8.3% in 2008 to 5.8% in 2011. That will do its damage to both the OBP and the value of a player – player who is often injured and doesn’t really have a position.

Is the versatility the greatest option for Prado or is he more or a Michael Young-type player, one moved off positions in favor of better options? When the Braves brought in Dan Uggla (a clear upgrade), it spelled the end of his time at second base. He seems a serviceable back-up at third base when the starter goes down injured but, as a left fielder, does he provide the type of offense expected from a non-premium defensive position? Only Juan Pierre and Brett Gardner — two players with wildly different profiles than Prado — have lower ISOs among regular left fielders since the start of last season.

As a 28 year-old with two arbitration years available, Prado serves as an upgrade at second baseand maybe in left field if league average production is the goal. Can he reverse the offensive decline shown in 2011 with a potentially flawed approach at the plate?

Again – league average is not a dirty word. For the Braves he represents decent value as he figures to sign for in the neighbourhood of $4 million per year. But, in my eyes, this is a player trending downward. Add in a mixed bag of health and you have a player not worth the top prospect price tag placed on him by the Braves braintrust. Can’t blame them for trying.