Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lillibridge vs. Romak

As the second part of the Laroche-Gonzalez deal, the Pirates and Braves have reportedly agreed to swap Minor League players from the Class A Level.

The Braves will be receiving infielder Brent Lillibridge, who had a very solid 2006 season and could start at AA for the Braves. Lillibridge hit .305 in a combined 475 at-bats between Hickory and Lyncburg last season. He scored 106 runs, hit 13 homeruns and drove in 71 runs. He was also an impressive 53 for 66 stealing bases.

Lillibridge would have almost certainly landed on the Pirates Top Ten Prospects list when it is released by Baseball America next month. Last year Lillibridge missed the top ten but was named the Pirates top defensive infielder within the minor league system.

The Beaver County Times' John Perrotto had this to say about Lillibridge in November of 2005 when holding a chat about the Pirates Top Ten on BA:

"My gut feeling is that Lillibridge will be the best of the bunch (reader question was about a small number of specific Pirate prospects). Granted, I only saw Williamsport play twice last summer but he just had the look of a ballplayer to me."

Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver writes this piece on Lillibridge, saying he is possibly the best player in the trade and it is not out of the question that he could be in the Braves starting lineup this season on opening day. Silver raves about Lillibridge, claiming John Schuerholz cleary gets the best of Littlefield in the trade. The final line of the article sums up Silver's beliefs:
"Add it all up, and PECOTA thinks he’s one of the 10 or 15 better prospects in the game. You won’t find him that high on other lists, but this is a steal for Schuerholz."
The Pirates on the other hand, are receiving a bit more of a project in outfielder Jamie Romak. A 6-2, 200 plus pound power-hitter, Romak is a native of Ontario, Canada. The Pirates seriously considered drafting him in 2003, before he was ultimately drafted by the Braves in the fourth round.

Romak spent last year in the Sally league with the Rome Braves where he hit an impressive 16 homeruns in just 348 at-bats. However, for the season Romak batted just .247 and struck out 102 times. Earlier this year ChopNation, a Braves site, listed Romak as the Braves 21st best prospect and had this to say:

Jamie Romak – Outfield – Age: 21…The Braves are really adopting an almost sabermetric point-of-view. Example: Romak. He has failed to impress at all as far as batting average is concerned. Last year, the Canadian hit .247 and has hit .233 over 209 games. Nonetheless, he has shown great plate discipline and pretty good power, especially in the ballparks he has played in. John Schuerholz = Moneyball?
These are the reasons why I put a .233 hitter in my Top 30. Maybe Romak will never hit .300, but if he hits .260 at the major league level, he will still be very valuable. Think Kelly Johnson, but more power.
ETA: Late 2009

One last thing on Romak. In 118 at-bats last year against left-handed pitching, he hit .280. In 230 at-bats against right-handers, he hit .23o, but did so with more raw power.
Obviously there will be more to come on this topic over the next few days. Stay Tuned.
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