Friday, January 2, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #9 Daniel Carbonell

Daniel Carbonell, OF.  DOB:  3/29/1991.  B-R, T-R.  6'3", 196 lbs.

Rookie AZL:   .314/.368/.486, 1 HR, 4 SB, 5.3 BB%, 10.5 K%, 38 PA.
High A:          .344/. 390/.538, 3 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 7 SB, 6.0 BB%, 19.0 K%, 100 PA.
AA(Playoffs):  7 for 28, 2B, 2 3B.
AFL:              .190/.217.276, 3B, HR, 3.3 BB%, 26.7 K%.

Cuba(4 seasons):  .287 BA, 28 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 568 AB.

I gotta be honest here.  I don't know what to make of Daniel Carbonell or who to believe about him.  Carbonell is the 23 year old Cuban emigre who the Giants signed for a modest $1.4 M in guaranteed money over 4 years.  He got $1 M up front plus $100 K for each year of minor league play with salaries in the $500-$600 K range for each year he plays in the majors.  He signed early in the summer, but then had to wait for a work permit.  After a successful short stint in Arizona, he moved up to San Jose where he put up impressive numbers.  The Giants were reportedly pleased with what they saw and  liked it well enough to move him up to Richmond for the Eastern League playoffs.  He held his own there in a very low run-scoring environment as pitching dominated the EL postseason.

Then came the AFL.  Now, it's not that unusual for good players to put up bad numbers in the AFL.  Buster Posey is the name that comes immediately to mind.  It's a very small sample size.  They don't play every day and individual players don't play every game.  What might be more alarming is a scathing scouting report filed by someone named Eric Longenhagen in Fangraphs entitled In the AFL, Cubans Continue to Confound.  Here's what Eric said about Carbonell's swing:

"…stiff, weak wristed and without good bat speed or any semblance of weight transfer."

There is video posted of both batting practice and in-game swings.  Here's what I see:  He has a moderately wide based stance with hands about even with his shoulders.  As the pitch is delivered, he raises his front heel and turns it outward, but there is no stride.   He brings his hands straight up and back and makes a slight in-turn of his front hip.  He then takes a direct path to the ball with a quick turn of the hips and definitely transfers his weight from back to front foot.  To me, the bat head speed looks good and he appears to drive through the ball.  It's not a classic swing, but it's not a lot different than Joe Panik's to my eye.  If anything, he has more torque on his torso, more weight transfer and more finish to his swing than Panik, plus he's a lot bigger than Panik.  In short, I'm not so sure it's such a bad swing unless you are looking for a guy who is going to hit 30 HR's a year.  Bobby Evans has said the Giants see him as more of a gap hitter.

The Giants have 4 years to develop and get something out of Carbonell before he becomes a FA.  I do not know if option years and arbitration play a role here.  It does seem like he needs to move fast if the Giants don't want to end up just training him for another team.  Based on his assignment to Richmond for the EL playoffs, that would seem to be the most likely place for him to start 2015, but like I said, I have no idea what to expect at this point.

One last point.  Carbonell came advertised as a switch-hitter, but he apparently struggled against RH pitching and scouts thought he might have to hit only RH.  The Fangraphs report made is sound like the move to RH only hitting happened in the AFL, but Conner Penfold of Giant Potential has video posted of him hitting RH against a RH pitcher in the AZL in the summer, so I think he has hit exclusively RH since joining the Giants organization.


  1. Many players have a tough time in the AFL. So, I am willing to completely forget what happened there. Richmond was such a small sample size but he was able to do well. San Jose is what I base all of my thoughts about. He showed that he can get on base and has a little power, mostly in the gap with 3 triples and 3 doubles. I still have very high hopes for him. He is still very young and raw and probably has not even reached his complete potential. I am refusing to listen to the critics on Daniel and want him to show me in 2015 what he can really do. I am assuming, like DrB, that he will end up in Richmond where that seems to be the ultimate test for hitters. The scouting report that suggests he has a funky swing could or could not be accurate. Some people with funky repertoires such as Hunter Pence can do very well in this league. Nobody can look at Pence's throwing and batting stance and say it is traditional but he seems to be able to work with it nicely. Let's all give Carbonell the benefit of the doubt and see what he can do. If he washes out for some reason, it was a very low risk deal that had the possibility of some big upside.

    1. Well, Carbonell is one of the biggest story lines to follow among Giants prospects in 2015, that's for sure.

  2. Can you find the link to that Fangraphs article DrB? I would love to read it over. I've been reading negative (message board) comments about Carbonell all winter, hearing time after time about the "devastating reports" on him from the AFL. I never had been able to find these comments, but figured they were from a scout (possibly a Bernie Pleskoff type) who posted them in his notes somewhere. Like I said, I could never actually find these comments myself, but I did read blurbs that others had copied and pasted. I'll even admit that I moved Carbonell out of my top 10 (I had him top 5 at one point) because I was under the impression that scouts were disappointed in him.

    For all we know, maybe the general consensus on Carbonell is negative after the AFL. I'm likely going to put myself in a bad light saying this, but I honestly don't care. If all the negativity surrounding Carbonell has come from this Fangraphs article, then my outlook on the guy is completely changed. I know that site is well respected by many in the baseball world, but I personally can't stand it. Yes, they've got lots of shiny stats and percentages and bells and whistles, but that's some of the most biased, sarcastic, negative writing I've ever seen. As many of us know, they love to knock Giants prospects... and most of the baseball articles I read over there, I'm lost by the second paragraph. I've honestly never been a fan of their work. And those comments upset me even more knowing that they posted video in clear contrast with the reports.

    I guess I'll go back to my original beliefs about Carbonell. Joe Ritzo thinks he can be an impact player. I saw nothing terribly wrong with his swing the video Conner P posted from the AZL, and I watched him single-handedly change a Cal League game that was televised by CSN. Now he may well turn out to be a Jesus Galindo type player, but to me he's already shown something that Galindo hasn't... that he can impact games at the AA level.

    Sorry for the rant here DrB. Once again, it seems Fangraphs has cast a Giants prospect in a very negative light, and I for one am very tired of it. I hope this dang guy ends up a mainstay in the Giants OF down the road, as well as every other player those fools have thrown under the bus. Sheesh! Happy New Year everyone... Is it baseball season yet?


    2. If you search Carbonell's name in the upper left hand search box on Fangraphs, then click on his profile, the article will be linked underneath.

      I agree with a lot of what you say about Fangraphs, but I do learn from reading their site, even though I definitely don't agree with all of it and they do seem to have a definite negative bias toward the Giants. I think that stems from they proclaiming for how long about what a terrible GM Brian Sabean is which they have been proven wrong about beyond all reasonable doubt.

      In fairness to the author of the article about Carbonell, I don't get the feeling that his comments came out of any anti-Giants bias. He was actually pretty negative toward several Cubans he scouted down there including Rusney Castillo. I just don't know if he knows as much about scouting as he sells himself to be. I can definitely see what he is saying about Carbonell's swing. I just think he grossly exaggerates it and thus fails to notice some things about it that might actually work well.

      Anyway, hope you are able to find the article and I would love to know your thoughts afterward.

      BTW, I have found 4 videos of Carbonell, 2 from Cuba and 2 from the USA. His swing looks the same in all of them, so what you see in the video Conner posted on Giant Potential is what you get.

      Also BTW, I will look up Ritzo's comments. I had not seen those.

    3. Thanks guys. I don't know that Ritzo has written anything about Carbonell on his blog (maybe), but I asked him what he thought about the guy a couple months ago. I'll have to search my Twitter archives to see if I can find his response, but he did tell me he absolutely believed Carbonell had impact potential.

      I think my biggest problem with the articles on Fangraphs is that the majority of the people who write their seem to think very highly of themselves. I enjoy Kiley McDaniel's work, and am happy that he is getting more recognition now, but even he seems pretty arrogant to me. I certainly don't believe you have to be arrogant to write for a sports-dedicated site, but so many are, and it frustrates the heck out of me.

  3. Anybody else think that the trade of Carpenter, Shreve for Banuelos was heavily in favor of the Yankees. Seems the Yanks got 2 serviceable relievers for a once touted top prospect they have given up on.

    1. I've seen a lot of people mocking the Yankees here (typical response I suppose), but my gut also says the Yankees don't think very highly of Banuelos anymore. He missed all of 2013 yes, but he also made his AAA debut in 2011. People hear the name and think he is still highly touted, but his profile says otherwise.

    2. Banuelos is 1 year removed from TJ after missing all of 2014. The Braves may have bought low on a pretty nice prospect.

  4. If Carbonell can contribute to the big league squad.It will be a successful signing.I'm more concerned about his defense.Haven't heard much about his glove.

  5. Even if Carbonell's ceiling is a 4th OF he could still be very valuable. With his speed he could be a great PR off the bench and also be an insurance policy for Pagan since he seems to be injury prone.

  6. What is the likelihood that Carbonell could have performed as well as he did in A and briefly in AA if his swing were as bad as the Fangraphs writer claimed? On the face of it, the Fangraphs' "expert's" claim doesn't square with his actual performance previously, or what must be the Giants' scouts' good opinion of him.

    1. That's exactly the point I made in the comments after the article. He was pretty darn dismissive about it. Said it was just sample size and the hitter friendly Cal League. I called him out on it and he kind of got bent out a bit. Said if I was hung up on the Cal League stats I should make a list of players who slugged over .500 in the Cal League and see how many went on to MLB success which is a pretty stupid argument if you ask me. I responded by saying I could also make a list of players, starting with Buster Posey, who looked bad in the AFL and went on to do just fine.

      I agree with you here. I just don't see how a player with a swing as bad as he describes it could slug over .500 and hit 3 HR's in the Cal League over 100 AB's no matter how small the sample size is. I just don't!

    2. +2 Add me to those in favor of this argument.

  7. I've read a number of 'scouting reports' on Carbonell, not just FanGraphs. 80 speed as he can get to first base in 4.0 seconds. But there's a LOT of reservations about his batting even though he is believed to be in the 50-55 power potential. He also has a good arm, but it's not a cannon and plays excellent defense.

    I also note that people are kind of split on his potential. Some think he's got starter ability, others think he's nothing more than a defensive/4th outfielder because of the batting issue But there's time to develop him and he is an excellent athlete so if he can get some fluidity into his swing, he could make it.

    1. Well, I think we all know that if everybody thought Carbonell was the next Yasiel Puig, The Giants would not have gotten him for just $1.4 M in guaranteed money. On the other hand, we also know that the Giants don't just throw $1 M bonuses around at prospects, so they must see something in him.

      Just out of curiosity, are you sure all these scouting reports you have read are distinctly different from each other or just someone quoting someone else. That happens a lot on the internets. Maybe you could give us some links to some of these other scouting reports?

    2. I don't think prospects determined to be the 'next great player just like ___________' will be 'the next great player just like ______________' until they prove it.

      As for the reports, they're here and there. I don't bookmark them. I just look at Top-XYZ lists and read up on players mentioned at various sites. I didn't read FanGraphs report. I did read Jon Sickles report:

      Daniel Carbonell, OF, Grade C+: 23 years old, Cuban defector hit .336/.384/.523 in 31 game pro debut between AZL and Cal League, stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. Speed and defense look very good, early hitting stats are sharp, too, although scouting reports from Arizona Fall League aren’t as optimistic about his chance to do this at higher levels and the sample is too small to be comfortable sabermetrically. Thus, a cautious grade until we see more. Could be a regular outfielder if all goes well, or a bench guy if it doesn’t.

      This one is from Baseball America:

      According to several scouts, the 6-foot-3, 196-pound Carbonell looks good in a workout, where he can showcase his athleticism and blazing speed, but there are reservations about his hitting. One scout clocked him going from home to first from the right side in 4.0 seconds, which translates to 80 speed on the 20-80 scale. With an arm that scouts have thrown average to plus grades on, the 23-year-old Carbonell has the tools to be a good defensive center fielder. He has 50-55 raw power, but scouts have been hesitant to warm up to his bat. Carbonell has been switch-hitting, with scouts saying he struggles to hit righthanded and that he may have to drop his lefty stroke altogether.

      “Things don’t come easily to him, except for running,” said one scout. “He doesn’t handle the bat that well. The swing is very mechanical. There’s not a lot of looseness to that swing.”

      Carbonell was never on the Cuban national team and didn’t play much for his team in Cuba, Camaguey, until fellow Camgeury outfielders Dariel Alvarez (now with the Orioles) and Dayron Varona (who defected and has been training in the Dominican Republic) left the island. In his final season, 2012-13, Carbonell batted .298/.369/.449 in 223 plate appearances with 15 walks and 32 strikeouts, five home runs and nine stolen bases in 13 attempts.

      And here's another that I read:

      Here's his workout video: that I watched.

      You can see he doesn't do much weight transfer/hip drive in his hitting. If you look at Posey, who hits for power and average, you can see Posey really has some serious hip/leg drive: and doesn't fall apart in his swing by letting his hands turn over the top too early or breaking his back-leg at the knee and robbing himself of the power his hips and legs have generated.

      Carbonell doesn't have nearly the hip drive and he loses much of his hip/leg power by breaking his back leg and dropping his hips, though he's so strong in his upper-body and hands that he gets some power coupled with very good speed on the barrel of the bat. So even though he looks stronger than hell and has serious 20+ homer potential, his swing is more contact hitter and I think he really needs a change it if he's ever going to hit for power.

      You can see that from the in-game bats at the end of this video:

      And he might not be able to do that. I kind of get the impression he might have stiff hips and can't flip or drive them like a true (non-steroids era) power hitter must. Something fairly common in speed guys (which is why it's so hard to find good cornerbacks in the NFL -- lots of speed, but few with speed and good hips).

      Anyway, those are some I read and some videos I watched. And I think the criticisms of his current hitting-for-power potential are justified though they might be correctable.

    3. Don't argue with any that except that I see more hip turn and weight transfer than you seem to. It's subtle, but it's definitely there. The bat speed is the key which looks pretty fast to me. The Giants do not see him as a future power hitter in terms of HR's, but more of a gap hitter. If you project his SSS minor league HR rate you get about the same as what he did in Cuba. I think the Giants see him as a 10-12 HR guy with lots of non-HR XBH's with excellent D in CF. Kind of what they hoped Gary Brown would be, and still might be if he gets the chance.

    4. I would add that several of those citations are quite obviously re-reporting of reports the author has read.

  8. According to a report, the Giants are out on Shields and Scherzer, which is good news, and are still pursuing Ben Zobrist. We'll see if a deal can be struck to get Zobrist.. Happy New Year everyone!